My Corner, Your Corner: A special award from Paint Pittston Pink

My Corner, - Your Corner - Tony Callaio
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I took part in a special ceremony on Sept. 28 hosted by Paint Pittston Pink that brought it all back … the cancer I faced 12 years ago.

On Sept. 14, I received what felt like a very heavy letter. I wasn’t sure what it was when I picked up the mail because the mail delivery person always puts the face of the letter upside down — for privacy sake, I guess.

I thought it could have been a letter from Alex Trebeck selling me life insurance or Tom Selleck wanting to know if I would be interested in a reverse mortgage or an envelope with a fake key that will start a new car at a local dealership.

I was wrong on all fronts. It was a letter on a cardstock-type paper from Barbara Sciandra, co-founder of Paint Pittston Pink, notifying me I had been selected as the first recipient of the Cancer Survivor Award.

At first I didn’t know what to think. After all, it’s been 12 years since Dr. Michael Campenni eradicated the cancerous prostate from my body and, trust me, it’s not the fondest memory I want to rehash.

Most cancer victims who have been cancer free or in a very long remission don’t like to think about it. I tried to look at it from the point of view that my car had a bad part and it had to be taken out … yeah I know, weird.

My longtime friend, teammate and classmate, the late Sammy Agolino, who passed away battling cancer once said to me, “Having cancer or being in remission is like someone having a noose hanging over their head.”

Until you are out of the woods and truly cancer-free, I get what he said.

I chose a complete removal of my prostate going with the cure-rate of over 90%. Pretty good odds, don’t you think? I thought so, too, and that’s why I went that route. Here we are 12 years later and, with treatments and surgeries vastly improved, I may have chosen a different route.

Are you ever cancer-free? I’d like to think so, but those words from Sammy will always be in the back of my head.

When I do think back to those dark days, including 10 months of uncertainty from when the doctor said I might have cancer to the actual surgery, I think of how evil my alone time was when my mind drifted to the dark side. It was awful.

Thankfully, I had the support of my family, my friends and my mom at the time of the diagnosis. Everyone contributed to being my support system.

A lot of people like to keep their diagnosis quiet, but for me, writing a weekly column compelled me to be vocal and chart my journey. I received countless cards, letters, Mass cards, religious cards of all sorts, not to mention phone calls, emails, and personal visits.

I was lucky, very lucky, to have many family and friends in my corner, but I had the oddest feeling when I was accepting my Cancer Survivor Award. I was thinking of those people who fight cancer alone. I was wondering what it is like to have no one there for you.

It’s horrible enough to fight the demons in your head with support; I can’t imagine what it’s like without anyone there for you.

On the flip side of the coin, some people don’t know how to react when a friend or relative has cancer. In some cases, instead of being there for you … they disappear. Cancer people, you know what I’m talking about.

I get it, though; some people just get awkward when they are with a cancer victim, especially if it is a severe case, or worse yet, terminal.

If you are one of those shy or awkward people … do yourself a favor, try to be comforting, humorous, accommodating to your friend or loved one. If you can’t do any of that, just be there for them, even if you sit with them without saying a word.

I digress. Last Friday evening was lovely. The awards ceremony was not a grandiose affair; it was simple and sweet. We had our names called out with the associated awards, accepted the beautiful glass engraved trophy, smiled for the cameras and that was it. It was perfect.

As the sun set on the Susquehanna River, committee members held lit votive candle as Barbara Sciandra read the names of award recipients. The scene was beautiful and it was all so touching. Having my family present was extra special.

Getting my award aside, the best part of the night was the launching of the memory lanterns.

These are paper lanterns that act like hot air balloons. After a little tray of fuel is lit, it takes a minute or two to fill the lantern with hot air to make it rise. So cool.

Magic markers were handed out and people wrote the names of those who have departed. It’s almost like they were raising their names in honor to the heavens.

Thanks to Paint Pittston Pink for a wonderful evening and honor. I can’t wait to see how successful the campaign will be this year.

Quote of the week

“Only passions, great passions, can elevate the soul to great things.” – Denis Diderot, French philosopher

Thought of the week

“The world is divided into people who do things – and people who get the credit.” – Dwight Morrow, American statesman

Bumper sticker

“Garden as though you will live forever.” – Walter Hagen, American golfer

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My Corner,

Your Corner

Tony Callaio