Last week, in the back parking lot of the Harbin Cancer Center, a very special event took place. And though it wasn’t witnessed by many, it has a resounding impact on much of the community.
The event was a celebration of release of an annual publication called Voices Over Cancer. For nine years an organization called Summit Quest has published a book of stories. But they’re not just any stories. These are stories of struggle and survival. They are stories of triumph and of loss. They are stories of celebration and remembrance.
“These are stories from our community,” said William James, the founder of Summit Quest. The nonprofit provides support and resources to local families affected by cancer. It provides scholarships, transportation, outdoor activities and other support services to children and their families affected by cancer.
“We open up the book to anyone in the community who has a story of cancer,” James said. “Some of them are stories of someone’s current cancer journey, some are stories of survival and some are stories of remembrance of people who have passed away.”
The book begins with stories of Summit Quest’s many programs and participants and then opens up to reveal touching and inspiring stories about local individuals and their families.
These are excerpts from some of the stories:
John’s story... “It was the Friday morning of Labor Day weekend, and I took my chemo pills after breakfast as usual. I immediately retired to my favorite chair to rest while my wife Paula took my grandson to school. I closed my eyes, but a feeling came over me that I had never felt before: I could feel the hand of God getting me out of my chair. I immediately went outside, and I began cleaning out my Ford Explorer, something that I had not been in since becoming ill. My wife returned home and couldn’t believe her eyes. I immediately announced to her that I was ready to play golf and go back to the gym again. I told her what I had experienced, and she agreed that it was the hand of God.”
Shelley’s story... “Throughout my treatment and journey I learned many things, but the main one is that the human condition is one where we thrive by loving and caring for one another. My husband was our family’s pillar of strength during this time, although he was also dealing with the stress of the situation as well. I am forever thankful for his love and support. I also learned that the mental and emotional anguish was just as hard, if not harder, than the physical battle.”
“We have tried our best to carry on his memory and share information on this horrible cancer. We want Tyson to be remembered as a fighter who overcame so much more than just his cancer diagnosis. He had the sweetest personality and could light up any room as soon as he came in. Pediatric cancer is the most underfunded of all cancers and it receives less than 4% of funding. This amount is split among all of the types. Please share his story and what this horrible disease is. DIPG is not rare. Our children deserve more.”
Marta’s story... “I choose to live my life with intention and make family and memories a priority. All journeys end differently, and I choose to focus on the positive parts of ours. Mom asked Amy and I if she could our guardian angel; to watch over and protect us always. So now, whenever we hear the sound of wind chimes, or see a cardinal or hummingbird, or feel a gust of wind blow across us, we know she is with us.”
Hector’s story... “I am thankful to the doctors, staff and the people who have been with me at every medical appointment I have had. My advice is ‘don’t give up, you can do this ... yes you can!”
These are just a few of the words the book offers readers. No matter how one’s life is affected by cancer, there’s something in the book that will resonate with everyone.
This year’s book launch event featured a backdrop of window panes and photographs.
“I wanted to build something that shared people’s stories,” James said. “Those hanging windows reflected people pulling back the blinds and revealing their stories. I wanted the display to reflect that.
COVID has hit many local service organizations hard. But James said Summit Quest has been especially affected since the families they serve are in need of human support and interaction.
“So now we’re spending more effort in transportation and acts of kindness,” he said. “We give people rides to and from treatment. We help them with their day-to-day struggles and we’re concentration on individual family support instead of our big group get-togethers.”
He added that Summit Quest still performs its popular outdoor activities such as rock climbing, paddleboarding, fishing, ziplining, camping and kayaking. But those are now done on a family by family basis.
Right now these families need that love and support and to know they’re not in the fight alone,” he said. “So we do a lot of phone calls and text messages to let them know we’re still here for them.”
Copies of Voices Over Cancer are available at Harbin Clinic Cancer Center as well as AdventHealth Redmond and will soon be available at the organization’s web site, mysummitquest.org