Editor’s note: To ring in the new year, we offer the stories of three local people who have special reasons for looking forward to 2014.

Getting healthy again

A year ago, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Rayleen Lima was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Her cancer had been caught early, thanks to a mammogram, but it wasn’t the happiest of holiday seasons. There were family members to tell, plans to make. She underwent a lumpectomy, then chemotherapy and radiation. 

Sometimes Lima, a unit manager at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston, felt lucky — she didn’t have to have a mastectomy and she was able to work through much of her treatment. Other times she wasn’t so lucky: She was allergic to the first chemo the doctors tried and got very sick, and she developed breathing problems because of the radiation. 

By the end of May, Lima was done with chemo. By the end of June, she was finished with radiation.

By December, her breathing had gotten better, her hair had grown back long enough to color, and she was on fewer medications.

She’s happy to see 2014.

“I’m looking forward to doing some things with energy that I didn’t have last year,” she said. “I love gardening, and I didn’t have the energy to garden last year. I have lots of gardens and they just had to do what they do on their own last year.”

She added, “And we have an RV and we go camping. Last year, my husband used up his earned time during my treatment, so we didn’t really have the earned time to go camping, so I’m hoping this year we can. And then there’s always relationships, which are most important.” 

She’s not sure life will return to completely normal in 2014. Maybe a new normal.

“I don’t know what that is, but we’ll see,” she said.

Trip of a lifetime

For biologists, especially evolutionary biologists, the Galapagos Islands are special. The islands informed Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. They’re home to creatures found nowhere else on Earth, a number of volcanoes and lava fields.

Larissa Williams has been dreaming about the Galapagos Islands for years.

“The majority of the people around the world know of it, but have never seen it,” said Williams, an assistant biology professor at Bates College in Lewiston.

Williams, 30, started planning to take Bates students to the Galapagos in 2011, before she even got the job. Last summer, she made her maiden trip to the islands with another Bates professor to get a firmer sense of what an educational excursion might look like. 

Next spring, she’ll return to the islands with 18 students and an assistant for an intensive three-week, six-island trip to study the Galapogos’ creatures and ecology. Most students will likely be biology majors, but Williams will take students from other majors if they’re excited about the opportunity.

“I want the students to have that awe and experience,” Williams said. “For some of them, it could be incredibly transformative in the way they think about science, in the way they think about field science, and which they just can’t get sitting in a classroom in Maine.”

It’s what she’s looking forward to in 2014.

The Bates College short course won’t be easy. Students will stay with host families at night and spend 12 hours a day in the field — seven days a week for three weeks.

“That’s a lot of school,” Williams said, “but when your school is being on a boat and watching birds and then swimming with dolphins, that’s pretty amazing.”

Saved twice in one year

Bill Sullivan had his first heart attack in April.

He doesn’t remember anything about he day. He was told he rented a power broom, took it home to Buckfield and started cleaning his yard. He’s told he collapsed in full view of the road. 

A driver screeched to a halt and backed up to check on Sullivan, who was then 59, a husband, father and recently retired businessman. A former state trooper saw the first driver’s reaction and pulled to a stop behind him.

The former trooper was trained in CPR. He used it for the first time that day.

He helped save Sullivan’s life.

“I just remember waking up in the hospital a couple of days later,” Sullivan said.

Doctors at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston put in a stent and a pacemaker. Sullivan started cardiac rehab. In August, he felt well enough to play golf with friends. 

“I went out and played six holes and bent down to pick up my tee after I hit my drive and woke up in the hospital again,” Sullivan said.

It was his second major heart attack in four months. And the second time he was saved by luck and happenstance.

One friend called 911, another started CPR. The golf course had an automated external defibrillator and one of the pro shop workers had been trained to use it just days before.

“He came up and got my heart started again,” Sullivan said.

The stent had gotten clogged. This time, doctors did a double bypass.  

Now 60, with two heart attacks in the past year, Sullivan has changed his diet and exercises more. He’s thankful for the serendipity that saved his live not once, but twice. 

“Say your prayers every day and trust in God to watch over you. Obviously, he’s watching over me,” Sullivan said.

He’s thankful for the chance to see Christmas and the coming new year.

“I’m just glad I’m going to get to share another one with my wife and kids,” he said.

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