Friday, October 26, 2012

Farm-to-School Week Ends with Bountiful Harvest

Wells Junior High School student volunteers and staff pose with green beans that they picked on Spiller Farm in September. From left to right are Samantha Jones (Grade 5), Jessica Licardo (Grade 7), Abigail Bourque (Grade 7), Beth Cilluffo, Ethan Huber-Young (Grade. 7) Mary Rand, Caden Gibson (Grade 6) and Kerry Georgitis. (photo by Saul Lindauer)


Local farms’ food now in school lunches

‘Farm to School Week’ in the Wells-Ogunquit CSD concluded on September 30. Since 2005, this annual week-long event aims to bring locally grown food to the District’s lunch rooms in order to improve nutrition and create a greater appreciation for food from hometown farms.
Over the past seven harvest seasons, the WOCSD Nutrition Services, directed by Tyler Goodwin, has steadily increased the purchase of food from Chase Farm, Spiller Farm and Sunny Acres Farm, all located in Wells.
This year not only saw a continued increase in the purchase of locally grown food but the introduction of student and staff volunteers to participate in the harvest. In September and early October, up to twenty student volunteers and six Wells Junior High School staff took bus trips after school to Spiller Farm to help harvest bushels of carrots, green beans, and potatoes. The student and faculty participation on the farm was organized by WJHS science teacher, Saul Lindauer.
This year Spiller Farm agreed to devote space specifically for growing food for the District. Produce harvested from this area was sold to the District at a reduced cost. This new arrangement will allow Goodwin and staff to process and freeze a much greater volume of vegetables that can be offered throughout the school year.
Goodwin admits that buying locally adds work and costs to preparing school lunches but said that “the trade off is worth it to get farm fresh veggies” for students. Goodwin indicated that buying locally grown food provides fresh food high in nutritional value, a real “hands-on” education for school children in the growing and harvesting of food, the reduction of a school lunch program’s carbon footprint and support for local farms.
For several years, the Maine Department of Education has encouraged schools to buy more locally grown food to support the Farm to School initiative. Goodwin firmly believes that what goes into growing and preparing food should be a part of a student’s learning.

Story provided by Reg Bennett

OgunquitFest 2012 Winners

Littlefield Village's winning entry in the scarecrow contest (photo by John Hurley)

The 4th Annual OgunquitFest was held last weekend, featuring wild costumes, crazy races, fun for all and funds raised for some good charities.
Contest and race winners are listed below, as well as a mention of the beneficiaries and the money raised.

OgunquitFest Scarecrow Contest:
1st place: Littlefield Village
2nd place: Anchorage by the Sea
3rd place: Beachfire Bar & Grille

High Heel Dash:
Best Time: Lance Powers
Highest Heel: Bryan Wilson (platform); Robert Coles (non-platform)
Most Outrageous Costume: “Gigi”

Money raised from registration for the High Heel Dash and donations from the crowd during the race generated more than $2,000 for the Frannie Peabody Center in Portland. The donations included a check for $500 from Donato Tramuto, local business owner. This is the 4th annual high heel dash and Frannie Peabody has been the charity recipient all four years.

Bridge to Beach Bed Race:
Best Time: Meadowmere Resort
Second Best Time: Anchorage by the Sea
Old Timers
Best Time: Hot Flashes
People’s Choice: Hot Flashes
Beautiful Bed by the Sea (best costumes & decorations): Meadowmere Resort
Broken Spring Award (craziest): Hot Flashes

Money raised from the Bridge to Beach Bed Race went to the American Cancer Society the Animal Welfare Society, and the Marginal Way Preservation Fund. More than $3,000 total raised for those three organizations.

Keep South Berwick Warm Community Supper

Volunteers serve up a warm meal, and help raise money to warm houses this winter (courtesy photo)

The 5th annual Keep South Berwick Warm community soup supper will be held 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, November 7, at Spring Hill Restaurant on Pond Road in South Berwick. The proceeds from the supper will pay for fuel or weatherization for local families in need.
“This event can really make a difference in local families’ lives over the winter,” said Pat Robinson, an organizer of the event with the Keep South Berwick Warm program of the local non-profit, SoBo Central.
Donations will be accepted at the entrance to Spring Hill in a large soup pot to be used to help families get through challenging economic times.
Soups, breads, and cookies at the annual event are made by local restaurants, bakers and community members. Raffle items have been donated by residents and a South Berwick Seniors sponsor the bake sale.
Local restaurants and bakers generously providing food at the supper include: Nature’s Way Market, Pepperland Cafe, Fogarty’s Restaurant, The Catered Event, The Redbarn at Outlook Farm, The Black Bean Cafe, The Brixham General Store, Spring Hill Restaurant, King Tut’s Cider, Isidore on the Rocks, Borealis Bread and When Pigs Fly Bread. River City Jazz will provide the entertainment with acoustic jazz music.
Those who can’t make it to the supper are invited to send donations now or any time during the year to SoBo Central, c/o Fuel Fund, 46 Witchtrot Rd, South Berwick, ME 03908. All donations are tax deductible.
SoBo Central is a non-profit organization that oversees the Food Pantry, Hot Summer Nights concert series, Friends of Powderhouse Hill and Home for the Holidays, as well as Keep South Berwick Warm. Its mission is to nurture the town’s unique character by connecting and engaging citizens in community life.
The organization’s signature event, the LanternFest, has drawn thousands of people to Spring Hill in August. More information about SoBo Central is available at or on the SoBo Central facebook page.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Salman Rushdie Talks about Fatwa, New Memoir

Salman Rushdie says it's "Get-Along Time"

Story and photo by Timothy Gillis

Best-selling novelist Salman Rushdie spoke at the Music Hall last week, about his new memoir called "Joseph Anton" and the life he lived in fear since the 1989 "fatwa," or death sentence, imposed on him by the Ayatollah Khomeini.
The fatwa was for his allegedly blasphemous novel "The Satanic Verses," which Rushdie said is actually one of his least political works, much less so than "Midnight's Children," which took on the public life of India or "Shame," which was based on "genuine political confrontation" in Pakistan.
Rushdie seems to have weathered the storm, though the 600-page book is a harrowing account of the effects of the fatwa decree, including the dissolution of a dying marriage, his raising of his nine-year-old son, and living with a 24-hour security detail from Scotland Yard.
He was shocked at the reaction to "Satanic Verses," especially the accusations in the British press that he did it on purpose to attract attention.
"'Joseph Anton' is how my real life turned into a novel, stranger than anything I had ever made up," Rushdie said.
A dream sequence from the work, in particular, seemed to incite Islamic tension. Rushdie read from this episode to start his talk, and emphasized that "Satanic Verses" was a novel "primarily about migration," he said.
"In the middle of it there was this dream sequence... about a prophet, not called Muhammad, living in a city, not called Mecca, inventing a religion not called Islam. And the person having the dream was losing his mind and going insane. This is what we, in the trade, call ‘fiction.' Unfortunately, it wasn't read like that."
The serious thing that this passage talked about, Rushdie said, was the nature of revelation, or "how does a new idea come into the world?" Also integral to the contentious passage was "what do you do when you are strong? When your enemies are at your mercy?"
After a short break, Rushdie returned to the stage with Virginia Prescott, host of Word of Mouth, for an interview. The Music Hall house band Dreadnaught played the Platters "Great Pretender," and Rushdie noticed the tune and sang along.
Prescott asked how Islamic culture has changed since he was a child. Rushdie said he grew up in a house that was "happily godless," where his father and his father's friends would discuss whatever they wanted. Rushdie was free to think and express himself. That did not mean his opinions went uncontested. There just wasn't a threat of violence for unapproved thoughts. Then came Valentine's Day, 1989, when the fatwa was issued, and there began "the difference between rhetoric and reality," said Rushdie, exasperated after all this time at the extreme reaction.
"Books are books. If you don't like it, don't read it. This is why they have books by more than one person in bookstores," he said. The United States is a very divided country, he pointed out, where half the people are often saying things that the other half of the country can't stand, "but it doesn't occur to either half to burn the country down."
Rushdie was often light-hearted and humorous on the night, belying the years of living in fear. Asked if he was still fearful or looking over his shoulder, Rushdie motioned to the audience and said "Look, there are hundreds of them in the dark. They don't seem that scary."
Audience reaction to Rushdie was overwhelmingly supportive of his plight, even if many in attendance knew more about his life's story than his written works.
Peter Randall, a filmmaker on local farms, was invited to the talk by a friend. He said he was interested in the whole story of Rushdie and the fatwa against him.
"It's ridiculous," Randall said. "I don't understand why people get so upset about something written. An act, I can see, but it's just words."
Henry Linscott said he was in grammar school when the fatwa was issued. "I didn't know what the book was about, but it sounded scary."
Twenty-four years after the fatwa, Rushdie feels it's "get-along time" now and looks forward to discussing the literary merits of "Satanic Verses," a work which has been analyzed through political and religious lenses, but has remained unstudied in the language of literature.
Rushdie said he is proud of the novel, but would have changed its history if he could. Related to the "Satanic Verses," an Italian translator was stabbed, a Norwegian publisher was shot, and a Japanese publisher was killed.
Rushdie lived in hiding, in England first and then in the United States, and tried to provide a normal life for his young son.
"Joseph Anton" tells of his hidden life and was his alias with the police, based on two of his favorite writers, Joseph Conrad and Anton Chekhov. His case, called Operation Malachi, was considered the most dangerous assignment for the police, and they served by volunteering instead of being required to do so. Despite the disdain from some higher-ups who didn't feel he had done anything to deserve their protection, hadn't "performed a service to the state," Rushdie grew close to many of the police officers who were protecting him. He thought they had it tougher than he did, since "sitting around, looking out the window, wondering what to do next" was the typical life for a writer.
"Joseph Anton" was originally written in the first person, a standard voice for a memoir, but Rushdie changed it to third-person.
"I had to get beyond the anger and resentment. That's why I waited so long to write it," he said. The objective voice also gives him some emotional distance and allows him to write more "novelistically."
"The thing about an autobiography, in the end, is to tell the truth," he said. "Otherwise, why write it?"

Haunted Walks a Halloween Treat

There are several options for haunted walks in southern Maine for this Halloween season. Coming right up, the Raitt Homestead Farm Museum has a “Trail of Terror” and Kittery is holding its final “Night Terrors Haunted Walk.” And recently, local high school and college students teamed up with area charities to hold a haunted walk in West Kennebunk to raise money for the Animal Welfare Society.

Nature Trail Turns Scary in Time for Halloween
The Raitt Homestead Farm Museum fundraiser is set to kick off next weekend, October 19 and 20 with the scary “Trail of Terror.” Running from dusk to 10 p.m., the fundraiser is sure to raise some eyebrows.
For more than seventeen years, the Raitt Homestead Farm Museum has held popular events like the Tractor & Engine Show and Vintage Car Show during the summer.
“A few years ago we decided to do a fall event and thought that a Halloween event would fit perfectly here at the Farm,” said Tom Raitt, museum vice-president. “One of our biggest challenges was getting the long-awaited Nature Trail done, which in turn could be utilized for many of our programs and events.”
“We are excited to start an October schedule of events that has something for everyone,” said Steve Beckert, museum president. “Not only are we doing the Trail of Terror on four nights, but we also have a children's day on October 20 from 2 to 4 p.m. Kids can bring a decorated or carved pumpkin, wear their costumes, ride in the barrel tractors and take a wagon ride as well as play games, trick or treat and more.”
One hundred percent of the proceeds from the events go to the children's programs, restoration and preservation of the thirty-three acre Farm Museum property. The Trail of Terror is $6 admission and the HarvestFest on October 20 is $3.
“It is going to be really fun and terrifying here at the Farm, and we are so grateful for all the support we have from area businesses, the community, our members and volunteers,” said Lisa Raitt, coordinator and trustee. “I personally can't wait to walk the Trail of Terror! I love Halloween and all things scary!”
The Raitt Homestead Farm Museum is always looking for a few more volunteers to help at all of the events throughout the year. For more information on volunteering or info about events, visit, call 207-748-3303 or 207-332-5444.
Raitt Homestead Farm Museum is located at 2077 State Rd (RT 103) in Eliot.

Dave and Marion Raitt hang out in the graveyard (courtesy photo)

Night Terrors Haunted Walk Schedule
Night Terrors Haunted Walk, located at 10 Bridge Street in Kittery, is back for one final year. Admission to the Walk is free and open to the public, but there is a suggested $7 donation for those that are able to help us cover expenses. Experience the Gothic Cemetery, Blood Lust & the Shrine, Doll E. Wood, Barnum & Bedlam Asylum, and The Great Pumpkin, a display area for after-school program pumpkin decorating contest. For more information, contact their hotline at 207-451-9279.
October 26 & 27 – 6:30-11 pm; October 30 - Children’s Twilight (scare-free) walk – 5-6 pm and Regular Walk – 6:30-9:30 pm. October 31 – 6:30-9:30 pm.

Wells High School Cheerleading Squad hams it up before the Haunted Walk at the Animal Welfare Society. (courtesy photo)

Haunted Walk for Animal Welfare Society Draws Hundreds of Scaredy Cats
Animal Welfare Society volunteers, Behind the Scenes Charity, along with University of New England students and the Wells High School Cheerleading Squad, brought the woods to life for the 4th Annual Haunted Walk on October 13. The walk attracted hundreds of people of all ages and raised more than $1,600 for the animal shelter. Included in the cast of characters were zombie cheerleaders, Bigfoot, a mad scientist, a chainsaw murderer, witches and ghouls. Behind the Scenes Charity spends all year preparing for the walk. The week prior to Halloween, the group builds elaborate scenes in the woods with spooky twists and turns around every corner. Gloria Berry says, “It is our way of supporting the work that the AWS does day-in and day-out and allows us to have fun while we are doing it! Every year the walk has grown, we’ve added more and more props and it attracts more and more people.” She added, “It’s a lot of work. When it is over, I’m exhausted but as soon as the last box is packed, I start thinking about ways to improve it the next year!”
About Behind the Scenes Charity
In 2004, Scott Kearney and Gloria Berry, along with family and friends, decided to capitalize on their love of Halloween and their desire to support the work of local nonprofits by creating a haunted walk. Over the years, they have donated thousands of dollars to organizations that address domestic violence, homelessness, hunger and animal welfare. In 2008, they walked through the wooded property of the AWS and decided it was a perfect location and a perfect cause for their group to support.

YCCC Announces Fall 2012 Distinguished Lecturer Series

In keeping with the mission of York County Community College (YCCC), each fall the Distinguished Lecturer Series seeks to celebrate the artistic, innovative, and educational accomplishments of individuals and communities across the state of Maine. The college has offered the series each year since 2009. To continue the tradition, each fall the YCCC invites three distinguished individuals to speak about their experiences and accomplishments as a way to inspire the community toward their own achievements.
The 2012 Distinguished Lecturer Series will feature:
- Bonita Pothier, certified financial educator, Key Bank on Wednesday, October 24.
Born, raised, and educated in Maine, Pothier has made her mark on the town of Biddeford, as mayor, teacher, small business owner, and bank manager.
- Shanna Horner O'Hea, chef/owner of Kennebunk Inn on Tuesday, October 30.
O’Hea studied art and marketing at North Park University in Chicago. She also attended the Culinary Institute of America and is now owner and chef of Kennebunk Academe Brasserie & Tavern at the historic Kennebunk Inn.
- Kathryn Slattery, district attorney of York County on Tuesday, November 6.
After graduating from the University of Maine School of Law, Slattery served as a clerk for Governor Joe Brennan and later as an assistant attorney general. She was a York County Prosecutor from 1987 until 2010, when she was elected district attorney.
The Distinguished Lecturer Series at YCCC is free and open to the public. All lectures will be held in the YCCC Mid Café at 4 p.m.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Third Grader Gets Belated Birthday Surprise at School

US Army CW3 Donald McHugh of Wells and his son Heath

Story and photo by Reg Bennett

Wells Elementary School student Heath McHugh got a very big surprise at the end of gym class on Wednesday, October 10. His father, US Army Chief Warrant Officer (CW3) Donald McHugh of Wells made a surprise visit to see his son at school.
“That’s my Dad,” said a wide-eyed and astonished Heath as he looked towards the stage of the gymnasium to see his father standing there. Young McHugh, who turned eight years old on October 9, was resting on the gym floor with fellow students when the older McHugh was spotted.
As relatives, students, school staff and television news crews watched, McHugh made his way to the floor to pick up his son for a big hug. Both have not seen each other for a year.
McHugh is a Black Hawk helicopter pilot and is stationed in Hawaii.
“It was awesome,” said McHugh about being able to travel to Wells to see his family and son in school. McHugh indicated that he only has until Friday for a home visit before making the long trek to Afgananastan. McHugh said that he has had three tours of duty in Afghanistan and three tours in Iraq. McHugh graduated from Wells High School in 1997.
“Good” said Heath McHugh when asked about seeing his dad. Both father and son were interviewed by the three major television stations from Portland.
Visiting WES with McHugh was Heath’s mother Shawna McHugh, great grandfather Roland Falconer and grandmother Heather Groves.

Former First-Daughter Continues Family Legacy of Service

Jenna Bush Hager speaks at the University of New England in Biddeford

Story and photo by Rhyan Romaine
Staff Columnist

“My parents not only brought us into the world, they brought the world to us,” and for former First Daughter, Jenna (Bush) Hager, those experiences inspired a lifetime of compassion and humanitarianism.
Hager has cradled the infant face of hunger in Guatemala, witnessed the impact of HIV/AIDS throughout Latin America and Africa, and lifted the heavy hearts of children left parentless after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America. Often fighting back tears, Hager shared these powerful and poignant stories with nearly 500 people on Monday, as part of the George and Barbara Bush Distinguished Lecture Series at the University of New England’s Harold Alfond Forum. While explaining the importance of sharing these personal stories she said, “I believe the more we know about the plight of people all over the world, the more likely we are to make a difference.”
Hager talked about Lydia, a young, single mother of five living in the most destitute area of Guatemala. Lydia lives in a cliffside hut, earns a mere $5 per week, and has already lost a child to malnourishment. Seeing the swollen bellies of her other children, Lydia selflessly walks four ho
urs every week to secure packets of nutritional supplements that she sprinkles on her children’s food. Hager also fondly recalls Ana, a 17-year-old mother living in Latin America who contracted HIV after being abused by a neighbor in her village. Never considering herself “sick,” Ana raged against the abject poverty of her world and educated herself about the necessary precautions to ensure her daughter, Beatrice, would not contract the disease (Beatrice is HIV free). Back in the United States, Hager remembers the joy she found in the eyes of children at America’s Camp, a camp in Massachusetts for children who lost parents in the terrorist attacks of the World Trade Center in 2001.
Prior to Hager’s address, the audience of students, faculty, administrators and community members took to its feet in a standing ovation when her grandparents, former President George H. W. Bush and his wife, former First Lady Barbara Bush, entered the gymnasium. Nancy Walker Bush Ellis, the 41st President’s sister, was also in attendance for the event. Hager has visited the family’s home on Walkers Point, Kennebunkport, every summer of her life and thanked the University for the opportunity to see how beautiful Maine is in October. She was especially grateful for the opportunity to spend a quiet evening with her grandparents on the family’s oceanfront compound. The former President was assisted by a wheelchair.
While speaking about the people she’s met around the world who inspire her, Hager took time to honor her family and the legacy of service they’ve instilled in her. Married in 2008, Hager announced that it is her grandparents’ marriage that she strives to emulate with her own. Amid friendly anecdotes of playing “house” in the East Room of the White House or “sardines” on the South Lawn, Hager proclaimed never taking for granted the “amazing privilege of living history.” Joking about her father, George W. Bush’s life away from public office, she mentions he has returned to more domestic policy, “my mom is now commanding the ex-commander in chief to pick up his towels and underwear off the floor.”
Since her family left the White House, Hager has become a contributing correspondent to NBC’s “Today” show, a role her family has humorously considered fraternizing with the enemy. She is active in UNICEF, and is currently the chair of UNICEF’s Next Generation, an initiative dedicated to reducing the number of preventable childhood deaths around the world.

Local Inventor Lands Deal with Major Motion Picture

Buoy Bat, invented by South Berwick resident and bought in bulk by Adam Sandler (courtesy photo)

Sells bundle of his “Buoy Bats” to Adam Sandler

It’s been just over two years since South Berwick resident and inventor Bill Page decided to turn a wayward lobster trap buoy into a novelty baseball bat. Since then, thousands of people have taken notice of this fun and innovative product including Manchester, New Hampshire native and Hollywood actor Adam Sandler, who recently approved the purchase of 640 custom made Buoy Bats for gifts to the cast and crew of his upcoming movie “Grown Ups 2.” The film was shot on location on the North Shore of Boston over the summer.
“My wife answered a call in June and almost didn’t give me the message. The caller wasn’t forthcoming about what he was looking for and she thought that was odd,” said Page. “I called him (Kevin Grady) and after some due diligence on his part, he filled me in on why he was calling.” It turns out Grady works for Sandler, had seen Buoy Bat in a store in Marblehead, and if properly produced, thought it would make an excellent “Cast & Crew Gift” for the New England-themed movie.
Page traveled to Tyngsboro, Massachusetts, where the Columbia Pictures production was shooting a scene for the movie, due out in July of 2013, to show several samples of the bat. The scene they were working on called for four famous actors to quiver at the edge of a quarry’s cliff, being bullied by frat brothers from the local college.
“Sandler, Kevin James, David Spade, and Chris Rock were all there with dozens of extras and hundreds of crew,” Page said. “And there I was with my Buoy Bat feeling a lot out of place but very excited to be auditioning for a ‘role’ in a major motion picture.”
At the end of the shoot, Page and Grady waited for Sandler to review the footage before calling a wrap. At that point, Grady handed Sandler the sample Buoy Bat painted in a red, white, and blue, stars and stripes theme and branded with the “Grown Ups 2” logo. Sandler held the bat, looked at it for a second and said, “That’s cool… I don’t get it.”
 “It’s a baseball bat made from a lobster buoy,” Grady said. Sandler walked off toward a waiting all-terrain vehicle, and Grady said to Page, “Come on, he likes it. We’ll wait by his trailer and when he comes out, we’ll let him try it.”
While waiting for Sandler to reappear, Page and Grady played Buoy Bat in a corral of campers and studio work trailers. During the wait, many cast and crew members gave Buoy Bat a try including teen heartthrob Taylor Lautner, whom Page did not recognize. Sandler eventually came out of the trailer and took the Buoy Bat from Grady as if on queue to test the proposed crew gift. Page played outfield, and Sandler stood taking swings as Grady wound up. Sandler hit a squibber off the end of the buoy on the first pitch. Page cringed and said to Grady, “Give him a meater.” Grady obliged and Sandler ripped a line drive over some trailers on the next pitch. Sandler replied with, “Yah, that’s cool” and Page breathed a sigh of relief.
Page said the sales pitch was exciting for business prospects, but also a great time seeing life on a Hollywood movie set. Page told his daughters, Katherine, 11, and Sydney, 9, about the impromptu ballgame, and they certainly knew who Lautner was. Page and his wife, Susan, also have a son named Harrison, 7, and the family enjoys take the Buoy Bat on beach outings. Page has also developed a Buoy Bat Go Fetch to use with your pooch.
He recently landed a contract deal with Orvis, which sells the Buoy Bat on its website for $45. Kittery Trading Post sells it for $25. Business has been great, but Page is not ready to quit his main job, ice rink manager at Churchill Rink in Durham, New Hampshire.
The Buoy Bat is made of a typical wooden baseball bat, with a foam buoy stretched over it for the hitting end. The ball that comes with Buoy Bat is made of foam and covered with a polyurethane skin. It’s “face-friendly,” according to Page, “doesn’t break windows and is waterproof.”

Friday, October 5, 2012

York Woman Shares Story of Survival

By Pat Sommers
Staff Columnist

A single telephone call prompted Jean Smith to begin shaping a “new normal” in her life.
 “My doctor called me and said I probably had breast cancer,” Smith said of that phone call twenty years ago. 
The York area woman had just undergone a routine mammogram.
The film image produced by the mammogram immediately raised concerns with the physician who reacted quickly. A biopsy was ordered and was subsequently performed by a surgeon.
“Three or four days later I had the bad news,” Smith recalled. The diagnosis of breast cancer was confirmed. She was just forty-five.
A wife, mother of two and a registered nurse, Smith was promptly scheduled for a mastectomy and for reconstructive surgery. Six months of chemotherapy followed.
In observance of October as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Jean Smith agreed to share her experience with breast cancer and its treatment and to emphasize to other women the importance of self-examination and scheduling regular mammograms.
“It saved my life,” she said of the screening procedure which aids in early detection of breast cancer. Early detection can be a critical factor in successful treatment.
“If I hadn’t had a mammogram,” Smith said, “I might have gone three or four years until I felt something in my breast.”
Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in women, according to the Maine Cancer Foundation. It ranks second among cancer deaths in women, falling right behind lung cancer in current statistics.
As a nurse, Smith said she knew of breast cancer patients who had undergone treatment and “were fine.” But thoughts of the side effects she knew sometimes accompany chemotherapy were unsettling.
“I was horrified at the idea of being sick all the time,” she admitted. But the nausea she anticipated was limited, and Smith was able to continue working at her part-time job at York Hospital. “I worked the whole time,” she said.
The diagnosis was difficult for her entire family, she said, noting daughter Courtney was only sixteen at the time, and her older daughter, Jennifer, was a college freshmen about to take end-of-semester exams. “I got the diagnosis during finals week,” Smith recalled, “and I didn’t want to put that pressure on her. I called one of her friends to find out when her toughest exams were and then I waited until they were over to tell her.”
Smith’s husband of forty-two years accompanied her to appointments for doctor visits and treatments in Portland where cancer care facilities were based at that time.
 “It was rough for them to see me go through it,” she said, “but our faith made it easier. We managed it as a family.”
Those insights are a part of what she shares as co-facilitator of the York Hospital Breast Cancer Survivors Group. The group, with just under 100 members, meets monthly for sessions she said are both fun and valuable, particularly for newly diagnosed women coping with the enormity of the illness and the demands of its treatment.
“You find a new normal in your life,” Smith advises these women. “You change your priorities.”
Smith, who has been cancer-free for two decades, made such a change when at age fifty she returned to school, enrolling at the University of Southern Maine and becoming a nurse practitioner. She now works for a private family practice in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
She also takes part in an annual Walk for Hope sponsored by the survivor group. The volunteer-run summer event benefits York Hospital, the Maine Breast Cancer Coalition and the Women’s Cancer Fund of the Maine Cancer Foundation, all of which provide services to the women of the Pine Tree State.
Medical experts in Maine anticipate that about 1,100 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during the next year. A similar number of new cases is expected to be reported in New Hampshire. That is why hospitals and other health organizations in the region are offering a variety of events and services to help Seacoast women and others learn more about their personal wellness and manage it effectively.
“We are providing several opportunities for the community to become better educated about breast health,” said Nancy Notis, associate director of marketing and public affairs for Portsmouth Regional Hospital in New Hampshire.
As part of its observance of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the hospital will offer a free lecture, “Taking the ‘Scary’ Out of Your Diagnosis,” on Saturday, and a “Teacher’s Event” mammogram party on October 17. The hospital launched the observance on Monday with a community lecture on breast reconstruction.
Families First Heath and Support Center, a community health center and family resource center serving the Seacoast region of New Hampshire and southern Maine, will offer a free breast and cervical cancer screening clinic this month, according to Margie Wachtel, communications director.
Families First, which also provides affordable primary health care for people of all ages, prenatal care, dental care and parenting and family programs, will offer screenings on October 24 for women age forty and over or who have not had a pap examination for at least three years, who have no health insurance or are covered by high-deductible policies, and who meet income guidelines, according to Wachtel.
All women should have a baseline mammogram by age forty, said Jane Cummings, a registered nurse with Families First. This initial screening provides experts with an image with which the results of subsequent mammograms can be compared to detect changes in breast tissue. After the baseline screening, women should schedule mammograms every year or two, depending on personal history and the advice of their healthcare providers, experts say.
Cummings, who is handling appointment requests for the October 24 event, said the fear that sometimes prompts a woman to delay having a mammogram is unfounded.
“Certainly some women have heard tales of the discomfort in having a mammogram,” she said. “Others are just afraid of learning the results.”
But healthcare providers are increasingly aware that “there is a lot of anxiety” associated with mammograms, and improvements have been made, she noted.
“It really has been improved, and it is more comfortable,” she said of newer breast screening equipment that may be bolstered with soft padding or warmed slightly where surfaces touch delicate skin.
“They certainly try to make it more comfortable,” she said of mammogram technicians, and results are available more promptly, often within twenty-four hours, which eliminates the days of worry many women experienced.
Follow-up treatment is included in Families First care, Cummings noted.
Appointments for the October 24 should be made with Jane Cummings at 603-422-8208, extension 222. Space is limited but should a need be indicated a waiting list will be assembled, Cummings said, and additional clinics will be scheduled.