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An ounce of prevention

Cancer survivors open Festival with luncheon

Shawn O’Brien, left, serves lunch to Lucille Langlois, center, and Jerry Blake, right, as others await their turn. Gus Steeves. (click for larger version)
December 05, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE — A few dozen people got lunch and a rather graphic but humorous introduction to cancer Thursday, Dec. 2 as the Festival of (Giving) Trees kicked off its 14th year in LaSalle Reception Hall.

The graphic elements came in two forms — Robert Briere's personal story of surviving bladder cancer, complete with prop (an unused colostomy bag), and an unintentionally silent short film listing dozens of common household products that have been linked to cancer.

Briere's talk was also the morning humor, as he reminded people that a positive attitude boosts survival chances. For example, he recalled going into surgery — to liven things up, he stuck a bunch of shamrock stickers on his thighs to give the doctor a Happy St. Patrick's Day.

"I learned something about modesty" from cancer, he said. "A johnnie is about as useless as it comes."

That, of course, doesn't mean cancer was fun. Briere noted his recurred three times, most recently nine years ago. The first two times, doctors removed the tumors, but the third time, they decided to remove the whole bladder. Inconveniently for him, his surgery fell on the day his surgeon had his own melanoma removed, and the replacement doctor declined to do the surgery twice out of concern he'd bleed out on the table. When the regular doctor finally did it months later, Briere spent "seven hours in the operating room."

He left very much alive and hasn't had a recurrence.

For more on this story, please see tomorrow's Southbridge Evening News.

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