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'Take the tumor, leave the humor': Woman with rare cancer calls Dempsey Center a blessing

Lona Farrell of Gray says the Dempsey Center is a gift to people impacted by cancer

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — Hearing the words "you have cancer" is something no one ever wants to hear.

It's terrifying and life changing.

Fortunately in Maine when a cancer diagnosis is given there is a place that is there to help.

The Dempsey Center, located in Lewiston and South Portland, exists to treat not the cancer, but the person who has it. 

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Lona Farrell of Gray, who was diagnosed with a rare cancer on August 9, 2013, calls the Dempsey Center her saving grace.

"I was told I had a tumor and my question was what does that really mean, what are you saying."

Lona was told she had a neuroendocrine tumor---a rare cancer.

"At that point your fear creeps in."

A surgeon removed Lona's tumor, along with her spleen, gall bladder and part of her kidney, pancreas and diaphragm.

"I  learned you can live without a lot of parts. I said to the doctors take as much as you need, take the tumor but leave the humor" Lona laughed.

Lona said the support she received from her family, particularly her husband and son and daughter in law was amazing, but it wasn't enough.

Lona was depressed.  

"Your family, if they haven't had a cancer, they can't really understand and you don't want them too."

Lona's doctor told her about the Dempsey Center. 

"I feel blessed to be here and have this center." 

The Dempsey Center provides all kinds of programs and workshops for people with cancer and also their loved ones.

There are counseling services, nutritional classes, tai chi, massage, yoga and so much more. Services that are provided at no cost.

Credit: NCM

Lona is called the backbone of the weekly cancer support group.

"You cry with them, you laugh with them. The joy, the friendships, the bond created and it's done in a very safe place. I just think you're able to relate so much and there is no judgment at all."

No judgement, just a tremendous amount of support.

"For me the friendships I have gained that I would never have gotten to meet such wonderful people with cancer is basically one of the gifts it gave me."

Lona is cancer free but she doesn't call herself a survivor.

"I decided I would become a thriver and I hope that's what I continue to do. I'm going to thrive with the rest of my life."

Lona is not happy she got cancer but she's grateful for it as well as the Dempsey Center.

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