When the doctor diagnosed cancer, Janice Brewer’s life picked up steam. “I figured that I am on my way out so I’m gonna do what I wanna do,” Brewer said.

Brewer received word in April 2008 that she had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and at that moment she decided she would “live every day as if it’s my last.”

The mother of four quickly packed, left her winter home in Florida and came back to Greene, the town she has called home for 73 years. “The first thing I wanted to do was clean my house,” Brewer said.

“She now has a bucket list,” said Bernard Bates, Brewer’s fiance since 1984. To ride in a motorcycle side car — check. To meet Patrick Dempsey — unchecked. To put up a Christmas tree in July — check.

Brewer and Bates have wintered in Florida since 1996. “It’s like another family down there,” Brewer said of her southern friends. But, despite a holiday meal and gift exchange with tan neighbors, Brewer misses Christmas in Maine. “Christmas is no fun down there, there is no snow or horses,” said Brewer, referring to horse-drawn sleighs. 

Florida has Christmas trees “but not the honking big ones like I want,” she said. So rather than getting a small tree in December, Brewer opted for a big tree in July.

During a party over July 4 weekend, Brewer’s announcement that she had to leave early to decorate a tree raised a few eyebrows. “I have always wanted to do it so I did it and got it over with,” she said about the colorfully lit tree outside her home on Coburn Road.

Brewer turns on the Christmas lights at about 8:30 p.m. each evening and turns them off at about 10 p.m. Neighbors and kids stop to look and Greene’s oldest resident, 100-year-old Barbara Nelson, came by dressed in her pajamas. Brewer’s twin sister Glenice Bubier stopped by wearing red gloves, a scarf and hat while singing Jingle Bells.

Brewer’s last cancer treatment was on June 17. “The doctors said they could not see a thing,” she said with a big smile. The good news will not keep her from her to-do list. Brewer receives support from The Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing in Lewiston and meeting Dempsey himself is high on that list. “I am going to live every day as if its my last,” Brewer said.

Brewer plans to have her Christmas tree up through July.

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