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Survivor Brunch Stories: Saturday event free for cancer survivors, $10 for caregivers & supporters

LAPLACE — Whether she’s having a good day or a bad one, Beverly Harris always gets fully dressed.

Sometimes she goes about her daily routine of shopping and running errands. Other times, all she can do is sit on her sofa and pray.

Harris, 74, has stage four stomach and lung cancer, but she’s not going to let that stop her.

“I’ve never taken the bed,” she said. “I refuse to take the bed. Even if I’m not feeling good, I dress and go sit on the sofa. When I feel good, I go somewhere and do something. I don’t plan, though, because I never know.”

Harris will take her positive attitude and her cancer story to the annual St. John the Baptist Parish Relay for Life Survivors Brunch to be held at 9 a.m. Saturday at VFW Post 3337, 205 W. 5th St., LaPlace.

The event will bring together the area’s cancer survivors, their families and their caregivers for a day of celebration. There also will be bingo and door prizes.

“It’s a way of getting everyone together to support each other,” said Lauren Bolles of the American Cancer Society. “Besides a delicious breakfast, we offer information on programs that are available to them.”

It also drums up support for the annual Relay for Life walk, which will take place April 8 at Joe Keller Stadium in Reserve.

Harris is a regular at both events, offering her help and advice to fellow cancer survivors.

“It helps me because I feel we are all sisters and brothers who have cancer,” Harris said. “If you never had cancer, you just can’t understand it and you can’t help me. I feel I have something to give to another sister or brother. You’re supposed to have a positive attitude. I’m not sitting and feeling sorry for myself. I believe in helping others and, above all, I believe in God first. My greatest warriors are the people who are praying for me.”

As part of the event, survivors get to stand and declare how many years they have survived with cancer and tell their story.

For the past several years, Harris has stood and added the years since her initial diagnosis of breast cancer in 2004.

This year, she has another tale to tell.

Last year after several weeks of feeling down, Harris went to her doctor, who informed her she had Stage 4 stomach cancer. Her family insisted she go to M.D. Anderson, the acclaimed cancer treatment center in Houston. After several weeks of testing, doctors there discovered Harris also had Stage 4 lung cancer.

“I said, ‘Stage 4? What happened to one and two?,” Harris said. “You think, Stage 4, there’s no lower you can go.”

In keeping with her positive attitude, Harris told her doctor she was thankful.

“He said, ‘You’re the first patient I knew who ever thanked God for stomach cancer,” Harris said. “It helped bring me to that stage because, guess what, I had no symptoms of lung cancer, whatsoever,” she said. “I had no breathing trouble, no shortness of breath. If they hadn’t found my stomach cancer, they never would have found the lung cancer. If it hadn’t gone into my stomach and upset my eating habits, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among men and women, killing more people than breast, colon and prostate cancers combined.

Now, nearly a year after her diagnosis, with regular chemotherapy treatments in pill form since September, Harris said her cancer is “stable.”

“I’m feeling fine,” she said. “I do have my days.”

Cancer survivors may attend the brunch for free. The cost for caretakers is $10. Contact Marlene and Bobby Bourgeois at 985-652-5751 or Bolles at 504-219-2273 for more information.

The St. John Relay for Life will get another boost tonight from local eatery Baba’s Sports Bar and Grill, which is hosting a “Give Back Night.” The restaurant will donate 15 percent of all proceeds to the Parish’s team from 5 p.m. to close tonight. Baba’s is located at 509 Main St. in LaPlace.