They came. They ate. They laughed. They cried.
More than 340 women enjoyed a night out in style at the third annual Creative Tables for Cancer event held at Arcola Prairie Place Oct. 7.
The hostesses were clearly into their task of the evening, as each table was just as impressive as the next. From Harley Davidson and Halloween, to Pot of Gold and Red Hat Ladies, the themes were expressed on the tables in great detail.
This year's guest speaker, Marie Meckling from Weyburn, gave every woman in attendance a reason to laugh and cry, as she shared the ups and downs of her battle with cancer.
First diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001, Meckling underwent a mastectomy and chemotherapy to rid her body of cancer. And as anyone who's battled the disease or watched as someone battled the disease knows, it really takes its toll.
"I was completely bald. [With chemo] you lose hair everywhere," said Meckling. "It was all gone - eyelashes and eyebrows - except there was one dark hair that stayed in my eyebrow and he was just as stubborn as me. Cancer wasn't going to get him."
After she finished her chemotherapy treatments, she went in for radiation therapy.
"Yeah, but that's a piece of cake," said Meckling, referring to radiation therapy. "Chemo makes you sick, and nothing tastes like it should. It's awful. It's purpose is to kill every cell in your body, and if you were on it long enough, it would kill every cell in your body. Except that it has been engineered to be able to identify the fastest growing cells, and it will attack those first. That's why your hair falls out."
Meckling's cancer was estrogen-receptive positive, meaning it fed off of estrogen. Therefore, once she was given a clean bill of health after her treatments, she was put on estrogen blockers.
"I was doing really good," said Meckling. "I was talking all over, showing people and encouraging people."
Since research could not prove the estrogen blockers she was taking were effective after five years, she went off this medication in January 2008.
In October during her yearly check-up with her surgeon, an x-ray of her chest was ordered. The results came back saying she had pneumonia, which she knew was not possible, and therefore was sent for another x-ray.
"The next call was from the cancer clinic," said Meckiling. "They did this body scan and I had four tumors. So between January, when I quit taking the estrogen blockers, and October, these [tumors] formed."
Doctors put her on another estrogen blocker, and every three months she went for a bone scan.
"There would be more tumors," said Meckling. "I had two in my head then, some on my spine. It's bone cancer now. They form on my bones and what they do is eat away and pretty soon the bone disintegrates. At the end it's going to be very painful for me. Bone cancer is very, very painful because I can go like that (taps finger) and break a bone. So I'll have lots of broken bones. I'll be bedridden and I'm not looking forward to that. That's for sure. But it is what it is, so you deal with it."
"I have the option of going through chemo again, and I probably will, but I don't want to do it until I absolutely have to."
Knowing the fate the lies ahead, Meckling has taken an approach which has inspired cancer patients, survivors, family and friends alike.
"The day I was diagnosed, I went to bed that night and thought, 'Holy Crap.' Here I had all these plans, and now I've got to deal with this. I've always been a doer, so I'd ask God for help, but I was going to do it. That night I said, I can't do this. I physically and emotionally cannot fight this on my own. In the Bible, you said hand your troubles over to me, that's what I'm here for. So I said, 'I'm giving it to you. I'm not going to worry about it. I'm not going to fuss about it. I thank you very much for having allowed me to raise my children first. Whatever decision you make for me, I'm fine with it and I'll live with it.'"
"I went to bed that night and I had the most peaceful sleep. I woke up the next day and had this peace about me, and it's been there every since. I never worry about this. I never do. I never worry about whether they're going to find something. It is what it is. If they find something, we'll deal with it, if they don't, good."
This "It is what it is" attitude has helped her to be able to continue to live her life, as she courageously battles this disease. And she speaks at engagements, such as Creative Tables for Cancer, in hopes of inspiring others to do the same.
"Don't ever give up hope," Meckling said as a way to inspire others. "There is always hope. And don't every say 'Why me? Poor me.' It is what it is, so you deal with it. Be straight up with people. Talk about it and put them at ease."
She finished her speech at the event by encouraging people to do their monthly self-breast exams and to go for their mammograms. No one is exempt from cancer. No one.
Creative Tables for Cancer raises money for "Look Good, Feel Better," a charity dedicated to empowering women to manage the effects that cancer and its treatment have on their appearance, and often on their morale. Over 90,000 women have been helped through our workshop and services.
Darlene Olsen, the woman behind Creative Tables, puts her heart and soul into organizing the event each year. As a volunteer with "Look Good, Feel Better," she has seen the positive effects the workshops have had on women, and apparently from the generosity of the businesses and people who attended the event, she has done a marvelous job of spreading the word on the organization's value.
Many local businesses showed their support for the event by donating auction items. Mary Kay, a supporter of "Look Good, Feel Better," and the company for which Olsen has spent years working with, made a kind donation this year as well.
"First and foremost I want to thank Mary Kay for the $5,000 in product they donated," said Olsen. "The product was given to the hostesses, entertainers and the guest speaker. And then I want to thank all the businesses that supported with their auction items and contributions. I want to thank the hostesses - they're amazing, they're just the best. I want to thank the Southeast Saskatchewan Belly Dancers. They were so impressive. Everybody was wowed by them. I want to thank all the people who come, and the of course I want to thank the guest speaker. She was amazing."