By Jenny Neyman
Angela Beplat’s message is longer than her hair. The note is one of support for a friend fighting cancer, written Saturday on a wall of the concrete vault that will hold the radiation accelerator in the new oncology treatment clinic under construction at Central Peninsula Hospital:
“Dear Friend. Watching you fight this battle this last year has opened my eyes to the strength and endurance every cancer fighter needs to face this head-on. … Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to be your friend and learn alongside you — through your pain, suffering, pokes/prods/body/hair changes, but most of all seeing hope through your eyes has changed me forever! I love you and I will always be there for you.”
The hair she cut last year, also in support of her friend.
“My really close friend Casey has been fighting non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma for the last year and I shaved my head for her last April, and have just been with her on this whole journey. She’s my age — 34 with two young kids,” said Beplat.
When it comes to cancer, it is not unusual for friends, family, co-workers, community members and even complete strangers to do what they can to help.
Fundraisers are well supported, from impromptu spaghetti feeds to annual community events, like the summer’s Relay for Life or this month’s Way Out Women snowmachine ride. Knitters make hats and scarves for people losing their hair to chemotherapy. Volunteers and staff at the hospital make the oncology department feel more like family care than just cancer care.
The hospital’s administration and board of directors answered the community’s wish to have radiation therapy available on the central Kenai Peninsula, rather than patients having to travel to Anchorage or beyond for treatment. The Kenai Peninsula Borough committed $4.7 million for the construction of the new clinic.
Saturday, people braved icy roads and a damp walk in the chilly rain out to the construction site to contribute another measure of support by writing messages on the concrete walls of the vault. As construction progresses, the messages will be covered over and blocked from view. But through the Central Peninsula Hospital Foundation’s “Written in Stone” project, the messages will be recorded and printed in books that will be given to every patient receiving radiation treatment.
Some messages were spiritual, offering comfort in the assurance of God’s love:
“Never, ever, lose hope. To hope is to trust God. To trust God is to have faith. To have faith is to believe. To believe is to hope.”