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Colors of Courage celebrates strength of cancer patients, caregivers

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Don and Michael Theriault were brothers who died after battles with cancer exactly 13 years apart — on May 29 in 2006 and 2019, respectively. Their sisters Carole Olore and Lisa Jandreau, both of Presque Isle, honored their memories as part of the annual Colors of Courage event held Saturday.

“What I most remember is their outgoing personalities, their laughter that was larger than life,” Olore said. “They would give the shirts off their backs for someone and not ask anything in return.”

Olore and Jandreau were two of 18 people who served as this year’s “Champions” during Northern Light A.R. Gould Hospital’s annual Colors of Courage on Sept. 7. As part of the opening ceremonies, the Champions walked one lap around the hospital campus, carrying flags in honor of loved ones who have died from cancer, in celebration of their own recovery or to acknowledge the caregivers who have helped them along the way.

Carole Olore (left) and her sister Lisa Jandreau pose with flags they carried during the Champions lap of Colors of Courage Saturday in honor of their brothers, Michael and Don Theriault, who each died from cancer on May 29 in 2006 and 2019, respectively.
(Staff photo/Melissa Lizotte)

While Olore carried a white flag in honor of Micheal Theriault, who died of lung cancer, age 66, Jandreau carried a purple flag in honor of Don Theraiault, who lost his battle with pancreatic cancer at age 51. Both sisters said that the ongoing support from their family helped their brothers remain strong until the end.

“We want to let others know how much family support means to someone when they’re going through cancer,” Jandreau said, on why she and Olore decided to take part in Colors of Courage as Champions.

The fifth annual Colors of Courage celebrated those affected by cancer through several non-timed races, including a free Kids Fun Run, a 3-mile walk/run 5k and 6.2-mile 10k for runners. 

Despite the cold temperatures and the threat of rain, approximately 150 people participated in all the races. Every year Colors of Courage raises money for Northern Light Cancer Care and aims to spread awareness of the impact cancer has had on numerous families in Aroostook County.

“One reason why we share the Champions’ stories is to show how cancer touches everybody,” Gonya said. 

Racers begin the 10k portion of Colors of Courage on Saturday at Northern Light A.R. Gould Hospital in Presque Isle.
(Staff photo/Melissa Lizotte)

Maria Rutmann, pediatrician for Northern Light Pediatrics in Presque Isle, has participated as a Champion in Colors of Courage for the past two years. On Saturday she walked in the Champions lap and 5K with friends Porter Graham, 11, Aiden Graham, 8, and Isabella Albert, 8. 

Albert carried a gold flag that symbolizes childhood cancers in honor of Zach Gagnon, a Caribou boy who died at age 13 in 2016, after a battle with Ewing’s sarcoma.

Over the years Rutmann has seen many children undergo the hardships of chemotherapy and radiation treatments and observed the emotional toll such experiences take on families. She said she wanted to walk for all the children she’s met, both the survivors and those who have died.

“I think they are the embodiment of courage,” Rutmann said. “Even though it’s been years since I’ve seen some children, I always think about them.”

For Tammie McLaughlin of Fort Fairfield, another Champion, Colors of Courage was her way of celebrating her recovery on non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and walking in memory of friends that she has lost to cancer.

“I’ve been cancer free for three years,” McLaughlin said. “I like that we can all come together like this to spread awareness.”

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