The Virginia Department of Health has awarded a grant for cancer patients and survivors in Southwest Virginia to tell their personal stories.
The grant to the Graduate Medical Education Consortium and Area Health Education Center of Southwest Virginia, which is located at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, has enabled GMEC/AHEC to work with six storytellers and a local musician to create the storytelling circle.
“Things I Wish They’d Told Me,” a collection of first-person cancer journeys in Southwest Virginia, includes stories from Benjamin J. Snider, whose wife was diagnosed at age 26; Stephanie Adkins Cooperstein with Marilyn Maxwell; Michael O’Donnell, Jane Bennett, Pam Stidham and Don Dalton, who in addition to being a cancer survivor lost his wife to the disease in 2008. Music between stories will be provided by Jack Beck, Scottish guitarist and folksinger.
“This is a great chance for people to hear firsthand what happens to people in this region: the good, bad and middling,” said Wendy Welch, executive director of GMEC/AHEC. “These are honest stories, told with a lot of humor and style.”
“If anyone’s thinking ‘downer event,’ think again,” Welch said. “The life in these stories is amazing. You’re going to want to hear them.”
And there are three chances. Free performances will be held at Christ Lutheran church in Wise at 6 p.m. Saturday, June 1; at Norton United Methodist Church in Norton at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 2; and at Mountain Empire Older Citizens in Big Stone Gap at 3 p.m. Thursday, June 6. Coffee and cookies will follow each event.
“We deeply appreciate the Virginia Department of Health awarding this grant, and the Mountain Laurel Cancer Center at MEOC for working with us to let people know what services are in the area: free screenings, follow-up care, travel assistance, etc.”
Welch and Leigh Ann Bolinskey, the cancer center’s director, have been project co-directors; Bolinskey has also prepared information on regional services for cancer patients and their families to follow each event.
Reservations are not required, but anyone with questions may call GMEC/AHEC at 276/328-0289.