June 16, 2007

Young victims celebrate life after cancer


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer 
From left, Anneleise Hess, 10, Ryan Aylesworth, 9, and Kaylee Marshall help to carry the survivors banner Friday during the American Cancer Relay for Life Survivor walk at Davis Field on the SUNY Cortland campus.

Staff Reporter

Cancer victims come in all ages. For Anneleise Hess, 10, and Kaylee Marshall, 12, it came during infancy before they could remember the pain and the hospitalizations.
Both girls helped carry the survivor’s banner during the sixth annual Relay for Life fundraiser, held on Davis Field at SUNY Cortland. And they were not alone as youthful representatives. Also helping to carry the banner were Blake Allen, 9; Ryan Aylesworth, 9; and Tara Lyman, 12.
All of the survivors were almost like movie stars, walking around the track to applause from the audience.
Kaylee was diagnosed with neuroblastoma cancer, which affected her nervous system when she was 16 months old, said her father, Paul Marshall. “She was a real sick baby,” he said. Initially diagnosed as pneumonia, the illness seemed to clear and then it came back, showing up in the same place on a chest X-ray. Marshall explained that pneumonia comes back in a different place, so doctors suspected something was wrong. A trip to Syracuse confirmed that.
Kaylee said she has two younger sisters, Delaney, 9, and Emily, almost 2.
Anneleise, of Groton, had adrenal cancer, which is very rare, said her mother, Patricia “Patty” Hess. The adrenal glands produce hormones, and now Anneleise has about three-quarters of a gland. Hess said her daughter was not given a good prognosis when diagnosed at 20 months old.
“She’s our miracle child,” said Hess, who has five children — stepdaughter Jenna Shufelt, 13; Emily Hess, 8, Alexis Shufelt, 5; and Aidan Shufelt, 14 months.
So far, the cancer has not come back, although Anneleise has had a couple of scares when her blood levels showed high amounts of testosterone, the last one when she was 6 or 7. “She’s been good since then,” said Hess. Now she just goes to the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia for checkups.
“Like physicals,” said Emily.
Part of the routine is periodic CAT scans. “They’re fun,” said Anneleise. “It’s fun going in the tube.”
Emily was quick to add that the hospital staff had asked Anneleise what would make the CAT scan even more comfortable, and Anneleise had responded, ‘TV and snacks.’
Hess said she and Anneleise’s father would read to her while she was undergoing this procedure. “And cry,” Anneleise added.
Sometimes she has been able to select music that would be played while in the CAT scan.
“I always had my teddy bear,” the girl added.
“It’s so ratty,” said Hess.
“Mr. Bear is not ratty,” retorted Anneleise.
Marshall said his daughter had surgery to remove the tumor and a little chemotherapy. The cancer has not returned.
Now in fourth grade at Groton Elementary, Anneleise started coming to the relays with her first-grade teacher Carol Sutliff, a breast cancer survivor, Hess said. Last year, her third-grade teacher, Nancy Triolo also started coming.
“We keep gathering teachers along her route,” said Hess.
While Anneleise did not plan to stay all night as the family is camping on Cayuga Lake, as they do every weekend, Kaylee was staying. For the first time, her family and friends formed a team.
“I’m planning to stay awake all night,” she said.
She also planned to participate in some of the games, she said Friday night. And eat a lot of sweets to keep awake. “I’ll drink a lot of root beer floats,” she said. That was one of her family’s fundraisers during the evening.
Deanne Marshall, Kaylee’s mother, said the name of their team, “Hope Floats,” came from the movie of the same name. “We love the movie ‘Hope Floats.’ Her daddy used to dance with her to the song when she was a baby and we love root beer floats.”
Maribeth McEwan, Kaylee’s grandmother, was dishing out _the floats to a steady stream of _customers.
The family team also had a caricaturist, Jim Coon, who was whipping up caricatures with plans to donate a portion of the proceeds to the family. Paul Marshall said he ended up donating all the money he made. Marshall said the family had hoped to raise $700 but had made $850.
“We’re real happy with the money we raised as a family,” he said.
Deanne Marshall said they had 20 people on their team.
The family also had cancer awareness bracelets, handmade necklaces and embellished flip-flops. They also raffled off a handmade jewelry set and bench.
They were not alone in raising money at the relay. Many teams had raffles and sold food. The Happy Campers for Life team had set up a “diner” with a menu of popcorn, candy and cotton candy.
Hess bought root beer floats from the Marshalls and then was heading for the cotton candy.
Both girls said they enjoy sports. Anneleise said she plays basketball and softball and swims. She also is a member of the school’s ski club. Hess said her daughter had experienced a lot of delays because of the cancer, including speech, motor skills and her ability to learn. Yet Anneleise was physically big for her age. “She was taller than everyone else in her class,” Hess said, adding that now Anneleise is about average in height. “She doesn’t get any special help at all.”
Kaylee said she has some curvature of her spine and a scar on her right side from the surgery, but she has not had any other problems. Paul Marshall said she only has to return for doctor visits every two years.
For older folks who get cancer, there are painful memories. Tony Julian, who survived prostate cancer, said he wore a vest covered with walnut shells because that is the size of a prostate and his goal was to talk to others about his survival and let others know there is support for survivors.
“This is a celebration of us who have gone through cancer, he said. “I remember laying in the hospital and feeling so alone.”




Relay rocks

Event celebrates life, remembers lives that were lost

Staff Reporter

Davis Field at SUNY Cortland came alive with the sights and sounds of the ’50s — rock-and-roll music, jukeboxes, hula hoops, rolled-up jeans with white socks, slicked hair and “poodle” skirts — as the sixth annual Relay for Life began.
The relay, a fundraiser for cancer research that is sponsored by the American Cancer Society, has grown over the years.
 “This was the best year ever,” said Tony Julian, a 2007 Relay for Life Committee member who coordinated the survivor portion of the event. He said 232 survivors registered this year and probably a few more attended. He compared it to the first year, when only 70 survivors attended. “It’s progressively gotten bigger,” Julian said, noting the stigma of having cancer is gone.
He said the weather also has a lot to do with how many survivors attend. Friday’s fair weather was ideal. “I hate rain for the survivor events. They’ve been rained on enough,” he said.
Allison Knoth, community executive for the American Cancer Society, said $140,000 was raised this year. Last year, $165,000 was raised, she said. Additional donations tend to come in after the relay, she said.
Everyone was having fun.
“They put me in charge of activities and said ‘have at it,’” said Corie MacLean, of her fellow committee members. And so she did. She said she got the idea of cars from a Relay for Life in Cooperstown that included antique cars.
“We couldn’t have the real thing,” MacLean said. So cardboard cars abounded, most designed with the ’50s in mind and hopes of winning “best car.”
“It is very hard,” said Bea Nilsson, a judge this year for the team winners. “I think everyone deserves it. It’s mind-boggling to pick the best.” She said judges look at theme-related items, team spirit and how much work teams put into their projects.
“The judges had a very difficult time,” said MacLean, just before announcing the winners. The best overall car was modeled after the Flintstones “stone mobile” from the group Man-to-Man with the Cortland Regional Medical Center team. The first-place prize for theme went to the team High Hopes with their “Herbie” car proclaiming “Herbie has high hopes.”
MacLean said Friday night that the cars would participate in a race to recovery this morning, scheduled around 6 a.m.
Winning tent decors were Sue Covington’s Walkie Talkies team, first; Scott Gay’s United Presbyterian Church, second; and Mary Ann DeMarco’s “Croozin’ 4 a cure.”
“I’ve got one fantastic team,” said Covington. She said each team member has a job.
Leslie Planck, the decorator, joined the 20-person team late. “They adopted me,” Planck said, after she got on the Internet and set about ordering decorations. She said the ceremony was very emotional for her because her dad is a survivor and her father-in-law died in 1996. She had been his main caregiver.
Anne Wingard, an event co-chair with Cris Dennison, said 54 teams participated this year with six or seven new teams. “They bring a new enthusiasm ... new teams bring a lot of fresh ideas. She said the teams took quickly to the new car contest. Most teams did enter a car. One team was fixing a “headlight” soon after lining up.
She said she and Dennison started organizing the event in October. “The real meat of it doesn’t start until after Christmas,” Wingard said. “The kickoff gets things really going.” It’s there that the theme for the year is announced and team captains attend to pick up packets of information for their teams, she said.
At the relay, for the first time, an electronic sign announced in red letters the night’s events — jitterbug lessons, bubble gum and hula hoop contests and many games. And, with each lap around the track, team members MacLean told teammates to take a paperclip to see who would make the longest chain.
The Jazzhappens Band played during the survivor dinner and also played, “When the Saints Go Marching In,” marching ahead of the survivors during the lap.
Another first included several sets of couples, all of whom had survived cancer, lighting candles from the Flame of Hope and then sharing their flame with others, making the lighting of the 5,040 luminaria bags go more quickly.
Mayor Tom Gallagher gave the opening remarks. “Relay for Life is truly a community gathering,” he said, later remarking, “We walk so cancer can be a thing of the past.
“I just love it. I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do,” said Wingard. “We’ve already got ideas for next year.”
She and Dennison also will head up the 2008 Relay for Life.


Depot owner won’t accept liability for new bus shelter

Staff Reporter

Plans for placing a new bus shelter at the Greyhound station on Grant Street may need to be scrapped after the owner of the station and the property owner from whom he rents declined to accept responsibility for the structure.
The county should consider looking for another location for the already-purchased, $5,125, 40-square foot Plexiglas shelter, County Administrator Scott Schrader said at Thursday’s Agriculture and Planning Committee meeting.
Cortland Transit, the county’s local bus service, has provided the county with a list of about a dozen locations where a bus shelter is needed, any of which could be considered, Schrader said.
Those locations include the front of Cortland High School, the front of the senior apartment complex at 55 Port Watson St. and a site in the village of McGraw, Dan Dineen, director of the county Planning Department, said after the meeting.
Dineen said alternative sites for the shelter likely would be discussed at the next County Transportation Advisory Committee meeting; however, the next meeting is not scheduled until Aug. 13.
Committee members expressed concern that the shelter would not be placed near the station at 42 Grant St., where the current shelter outside the building is a small, poorly-lit, wooden structure set far back from the road, but Schrader said the county’s options are limited.
“Unfortunately this is a private business, and there’s not much we can do if they say they don’t want it there,” Schrader said.
Ken Morey, who operates the bus depot, declined to allow the shelter at the station in April, citing liability concerns, Schrader said at the time.
Schrader then approached Fred Compagni, who owns the property and rents to Morey, but Compagni also declined to allow the shelter, again saying he wasn’t willing to accept the liability or the burden of maintaining the shelter.
Neither Compagni nor Morey could be reached for comment.
Bob Orrange, a member of the Social Justice Cluster since 2005, attended Thursday’s meeting and was upset at yet another delay.
“It may seem like a little problem for most of us, but it’s not for the people who use buses,” Orrange said. “(The station) closes at 5, but buses can come in as late as 2 in the morning and the people are left up in that dump.”
The Social Justice Cluster raised $2,000 to help fund the structure. The group had extensive discussions with the city that ended with the city not wanting to take on liability for the shelter. Since then, the county has attempted to help, picking up the remainder of the cost. Liability and maintenance remain issues, however.


Violent crimes on decline in county

Arrests, prosecutions up in lesser offenses

Staff Reporter

Local law enforcement officials say that although state statistics show a decrease in violent crimes in Cortland County since 2005, arrests and prosecutions of lesser crimes have drastically increased.
District Attorney David Hartnett, Sheriff Lee Price and Cortland Police Chief James Nichols all say they are pleased with the recently released state statistics that show violent crime numbers have dropped in the county from 2005 to 2006, but that their departments are dealing with more nonviolent criminal activity than they have in past years.
“It certainly doesn’t account for everything we do here,” Hartnett said of numbers released by Governor Eliot Spitzer’s office on June 5.
The state figures show a nearly 14 percent decrease in violent crimes in Cortland County from 2005 to 2006, including a 7 percent decrease in rapes, a 33 percent decrease in robbery and a 12 percent decrease in aggravated assaults.
Hartnett said he credits a strong police presence in the county with the drop in violent crimes, but that the numbers do not account for many crimes his office and the police departments deal with on a regular basis.
“At first brush it looks like our workload is down,” he said.
Hartnett explained that the state numbers do not take into account non-rape sex offenses, drug offenses, driving while intoxicated arrests, criminal contempt, criminal mischief violations and various other misdemeanors. He said although they are not considered “violent crimes,” he believes those crimes have increased over the last few years.
“I’m glad the violent crimes are down in the community,” he said. “It’s good for our community.”
Hartnett said since he has taken office in 2005, his department has been steadily tasked with prosecuting more crimes each year. He said his office prosecuted 120 cases in 2004, 143 cases in 2005 and 165 cases in 2006 in County Court alone. He said in 2007 his office is already on pace to handle between 170 and 180 cases in County Court.
Hartnett said in addition, his office has steadily gone to trial in County Court more frequently, with five trials in 2005, 12 in 2006 and eight already for 2007. His department also prosecutes around 20 trials per year in lower courts, he said.
Price and Nichols said they agree with Hartnett’s assessment of the crime rate in the county.
Price said the county’s 911 center has continually received more calls every year, while Nichols said his department has also steadily dealt with more crime in the city.
Nichols said, however, that the increase in arrests does not necessarily mean that more crimes are committed. He said because of increased police training and more community awareness on issues such as sex offenses and domestic violence, police are now making more arrests on crimes that otherwise would not have been reported.
“People are standing up for their right,” he said.
He said in 2006 his department made more than 1,000 misdemeanor arrests, while in 1985 the numbers were around half that. He said drug arrests are also up in the city over the years, with 12 in 1993 as opposed to 131 in 2005 and 90 in 2006.