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Harvest of Hopes message: Living with cancer, not dying from it
Saturday's annual Harvest of Hope celebration brought together cancer patients and survivors, doctors and vendors at Chicopee Woods Agricultural Center in Gainesville. - photo by ELISE PERKINS

Cancer patients came together with other survivors, doctors and vendors Saturday at the annual Harvest of Hope at Chicopee Woods Agricultural Center in Gainesville.

Their common goal: to remind people the importance to live life when diagnosed with cancer, not just die from it.

“This is our 14th year, and we had right about a 100 people come out. We’d like to have more in the future, so we will keep trying,” said Jennifer Lafond, who was in charge of the event. “We had a lot of cancer patients and their families and lots of food, fun, fellowship and dancing. It’s not a fundraiser, just a survivorship day, like a celebration for the day; awareness and celebration for survivorship.”

Harvest of hope is part of the Glory Hope & Life organization, and is focused on enriching the lives of those affected by cancer, and bring information and awareness. Throughout the year, it also makes monetary donations to patients of the cancer center of Northeast Georgia to help lighten their burden.

The free event is run with the help of both employees of Harvest of Hope and volunteers like Kevin Jarvis, who teaches at Lanier Technical College and the University of North Georgia.

“It’s really about the cancer patients; they’re inspiring, to be here with what they’re going through. It’s inspiring to me,” Jarvis said. “I’ve had the pleasure of volunteering for all of the company’s events. I don’t ever do anything important. I’m always the greeter or parking lot attendant.”

This year, the parking lot featured a train that made its way around the property, which was great for the kids and also enjoyed by many of the adults.

Dr. Anup Lahiry is one of several doctors on the board for Glory Hope & Life, and believes in the importance of educating people about living with the diagnosis of cancer, not just seeing it as a death sentence.

“Everyone had fun and the main thing is that we saw the other side of patients and the patients saw the other side of us: the human side, the fun side, the living side,” Lahiry said. “When they see us dancing here, and we’re not asking about how’s your cancer, if it’s grown, or about the nausea, vomiting or pain. We’re really looking at them as a human, not a cancer patient, because it is a human that has cancer.”

Once a year, Harvest of Hope invites people gather in a safe place to connect with others going through the same ordeal. Vendors and doctors provide information about cancer treatments beyond chemotherapy, alternative medicines, awareness, early detection and the importance of treating the whole body.

“It’s the little things, it’s dancing, talking to people, smiling, socializing. Without social contact they wither away,” Lahiry said. “You come here not for your hope, but to give hope to other people. When people with cancer come here and see other people living with cancer they say ‘hey, if they can do it I can do it.’ The more people that are here the more hope there is; more people who are living with cancer, not dying with cancer.”