CARIBOU, Maine – Cary Medical Center hosted a special program on bringing breast cancer survivors, those currently in treatment, as well as family and friends together in a “Tea for Hope” event. Some 40 people were in attendance and heard from keynote speaker Karen Ouellette, an 18-year breast cancer survivor.
Cary CEO, Kris Doody, RN welcomed the group and spoke of her own family’s issues with cancer. She praised the courage of those coping with cancer and survivors and spoke about recent equipment purchases that have occurred at Cary over the past year and the work of the Jefferson Cary Cancer Center.
“We have been very fortunate to install both a new CT Scan and MRI over this past year,” said Doody who is also CEO for Pines Health Services. “This is state of the art technology helping to make more advanced diagnostic imaging available right here in the County.”
Cary’s CEO also spoke of the advances that have been made in cancer care through the Jefferson Cary Center.
“We are so pleased with our providers Dr. Elena Vagia and Dr. Harvey Zimbler, along with Family Nurse Practitioner Josee Romann. We have a very talented and compassionate team, together with our nurses and other support staff. Members of my own family have received care at our cancer center.”
Cindy Blanchette, RNC, coordinator of the Pink Aroostook Program at Cary Medical Center described her own journey with breast cancer and then introduced the keynote speaker. Ouellette is the Northern Aroostook Hospice Chaplain for Northern Light Health and Hospice.
Ouellette shared her story of what she thought was a routine mammogram until she received a call from her healthcare provider informing her that something was found in the study. Follow up visits and testing confirmed that she had breast cancer.
“It came as such a surprise to me”, Ouellette said. “How could I have cancer? I eat right, exercise and I don’t smoke.”
She heard the news about her diagnosis while she was away teaching summer school at the University of Southern Maine. Later in the day she met with her sister who lived in the area to have lunch. After catching up on routine matters, Karen told her sister about the phone call from the doctor.
“When I told her she was shocked and began to cry, and so did I. Once composed we went to lunch and moved on to discuss bigger and better things in our lives. My sister was developing a passion for golf. A look of amazement came upon her face and she said, ‘I have something for you’. She went to her vehicle and reached in her golf bag and withdrew a pink golf ball. She had found the ball in the woods while looking for her own ball earlier that day. As I looked down on my new gift I saw the word ‘hope’ was stamped on the ball.”
Ouellette said this special moment helped her to believe everything was going to be OK. She credits much of how she got through the cancer experience to her faith. She also praised her doctors and medical team and said having faith in your care providers is very important.
After communicating her diagnosis to her husband, children and other members of her family, she found great support. Now in remission, Ouellette tells her story at different settings and has also been featured in a book “Valley of Courage” which features reflections of breast cancer survivors and their families from the Valley.
Following her remarks, women in the audience began to share their stories and one by one others contributed to the conversation. Blanchette said that the event was more than she could have hoped for and noted that it is our plan to host this event every year during Breast Cancer
Pink Aroostook is a program based at Cary Medical Center in the Community Relations Office. The program provides education, awareness, support and we advocate for those individuals diagnosed with breast cancer. For more information contact Cary Community Relations at 207-498-1112.