The Keene Central School threw its annual Thanksgiving Community Lunch, which featured turkey, mashed potatoes, roasted kale and other delights. The luncheon is truly an event on the grand scale as the entire school, parents of kids and people from throughout the community came together for a wonderful meal held in the gymnasium, and served by the high school students. Highlights included a skit by elementary school children and the international students talking about, how demonstrations of the spirit of "Thanksgiving" are held in their home countries.
Another popular tradition is the Thanksgiving Day Pancake Breakfast held in the Keene Valley Fire Hall. It is put on by Lola Porter, owner of the Noonmark Dinner, and all proceeds go to support community services provided by the Keene Valley Community Church. This year, the event that raised nearly $600. Lola was flipping pancakes by 7 a.m., and creating specialty orders designed like snowmen.
Certainly one of the most prayed-for events occupying the hearts of year-round and seasonal residents of the Town of Keene was the return of David McDonough to his post behind the counter of McDonough's Valley Hardware. This has truly been a most desired and cherished bit of good news to be thankful for.
Last spring, McDonough learned he had a rare form of cancer, one that few survive. This was a huge blow to he, his family, and their business that barely six months earlier was swamped by Hurricane Irene at a cost of nearly $80,000 in lost merchandise.
"I never thought I would be sick," said David McDonough in the comfort of his home on a crisp clear Monday morning. "I could not believe it was happening. We had already done cancer twice with (my wife) Paula. I thought we had dealt with it in our family. I knew I was feeling odd. I thought my feeling out of sorts was because of Irene, was because of opening the community branch of the Post Office. Plus I had lost my mother three years ago, Paula lost her father last year, and we were planning our daughter Tiffani's wedding. I more or less felt fine, just a little tired. I thought maybe it was just acid indigestion, maybe an ulcer. I took a few Tums and thought that was that."
"Then I started to get yellow," he said.
"Very, very yellow," said Paula McDonough.
"So I called Doctor McCahill."
"He is wonderful. They initially thought hepatitis, but sent David to Dr. Fedi at CVPH, who is from New York. He got us on the right track," said Paula. "Our daughter Tiffani is a doctor in her fifth-year of residency at Cornell Weill. She and Dr. Fedi talked. Before we knew it we were down there."
"I learned that I had ampullary cancer of the bile duct, a very rare form of cancer as two out of 10,000 living with cancer get this," said David. "I looked it up on the internet and the descriptions and outcomes were so complicated, and looked so bad that I couldn't read any more."
"They put in a stent to relieve the bile," said Paula.
"At first they wanted to do a Whipple," said David. "They had me all marked out and were ready to cut. Then they looked at the enzymes."
"They found spots on his liver and realized it had spread," said Paula.
"They wanted to do chemo but we got a second opinion, and their recommended approach was to wait a bit," said David. "The question then was whether to be aggressive, to blast it or not. Tiffani felt we should blast it and we agreed. Then I felt good because we had a plan."
"That was a big relief," said Paula. "A week from today we are scheduled for our last treatment - although they have said that before."
"The tumor count for normal people is five to ten," said David. "Everyone has a tumor count to some degree. When we started, mine was 4,400. Now it is 31, nearly normal. Our struggle with cancer really started 20 years ago when Paula got sick."
"Back in 1992, I had lung cancer in my bronchial tubes and lymph nodes. We had a friend in New York City, Pat Hickey, who got me into a hospital down there. I was in an experimental program called 3D radiation. I was the 16th person in the trial. We did well, but then a year later it metastasized to my brain. But we dealt with that. I told my doctor that I was a mother with three children. I said I couldn't let it stop me, and we didn't."
"That experience was horrid," said David. "Cancer is a family disease. It impacts everybody in the family. But as I said to my doctor, 'I can't not get better! I just have too many people rooting for me!' This town is amazing."
"When we first went to New York we tried staying in hotels, but is was just too expensive," said Paula. "But people here in town offered us places to stay in their apartments down there. They have made it so comfortable for us."
"This journey has been so positive in so many ways," said David. "The amount of help we have gotten from the kids. They all jumped in. The calls. The notes. The prayers. I have never received so many hugs. And the people who have been letting us use their places. My wife, daughter, and sister have been insisting I not work so much. That has been so rewarding: I listen to music more and spend more time in the garden, all part of my therapy."
"You look damn good in that hat!" I said.
"I never used to wear a hat. I had too much hair to wear a hat. Now with this hat, at last I look like the Irishman I am."
"What advice would you give people?"
"Stay positive. Step back. You have to put yourself first. I now listen to more music, I started a journal- that was very helpful. I write down everything. We eat more fresh vegetables. This community is amazing. After the flood there were six people at the store cleaning up before I got there, and never less than 25 a day. Without support from the Keene Trust we would not have survived Irene. The community helped us survive this too. We are very thankful that we live in Keene."