This year’s Dempsey Challenge will be different for Laura Glover.

The same could be said for everybody involved with the 12th annual event that bears the name of Hollywood actor Patrick Dempsey, but Glover’s new experience will have less to do with the Challenge going virtual than it will with where she is in her own cancer journey.

Laura Glover takes a photo with, from left, nephew Thomas McCormick, son Cameron Glover, husband Don Glover, and sons Christian and Aiden Glover during the 2019 Dempsey Challenge in Lewiston. Submitted photo

When the Brunswick native first participated in the event two years ago, it was to support a member of her community battling cancer. Last year, she took part while battling breast cancer after being diagnosed in April 2019.

“I wasn’t sure how to identify myself because I didn’t feel like I could call myself survivor yet, because I still had cancer. So I just walked, I guess, as a cancer patient,” said Glover, who finished chemotherapy in August 2019 but was still awaiting a double mastectomy while participating in last year’s Challenge.

This year, with a smaller group than the nearly 50-member-strong Team Refuse to Lose she captained a year ago, she’ll complete the 5K run/walk part of the Challenge as a survivor.

“The good news is I’m cancer-free. I had a little bit of a scare this summer and I had to go for scans. I had some kind of underlying symptoms again and they just wanted to be sure,” Glover said. “So I can say my journey continues, I am cancer-free, but yeah, I still have appointments related to it, so it’s not a distant memory yet for me and I think, you know, when you’re diagnosed with cancer it’s life-changing.”

Glover said her cancer experience, and her life, were made better by services provided by the Dempsey Center in Lewiston.

“It’s really hard to put in words the impact that they have on people like me,” she said. “I mean it’s just their services are amazing, the people are amazing, and, for me, it’s what I needed to get through my treatment and recovery.”

Helping lift up the Center through her fundraising efforts has been Glover’s motivation as she’s rallied others to donate.

“I’ve been putting a lot of thought and trying to do playful (Facebook) posts to rally people to donate,” she said. “So it gets me to think about the Dempsey Center, and think about how it’s impacted me.”

Team Refuse to Lose returns for this year, albeit with less than half the size of last year’s group. And the team’s fundraising efforts have brought in about half of last year’s total, with just over $5,800 raised as of Wednesday evening.

“It’s definitely, the whole COVID thing has put a little damper on things, but that being said, the numbers are less, and the donations are a little bit less, but people have still been very generous and we’re doing what we can just to spread the word,” Glover said.

U.S. Sen. Angus King and his wife, Mary Herman King — close family friends of Glover’s — were part of Team Refuse to Lose last year. Glover said a small group will complete the 5K this weekend along with some of King’s family.

Laura Glover, center front wearing bib No. 1296, poses with fellow cancer survivor Amanda Cohen, to the left of Glover,  and the rest of Team Refuse to Lose at last year’s Dempsey Challenge in Lewiston. Among the group was U.S. Sen. Angus King, front left. Submitted photo

SHARING AMANDA’S SPIRIT

Ideally, Glover and thousands of other participants would have taken part in the Dempsey Challenge in Lewiston this weekend. The festivities also would have included an on-stage ceremony to honor the winner of the annual Amanda Dempsey Award, named for Patrick Dempsey’s mother.

That would have brought this year’s winner, Jonathan Henry of Hampden, to the stage to accept the award from Dempsey. Instead, that award acceptance happened virtually this year, via a Zoom meeting with the Dempsey family, with Patrick working in Hollywood.

Henry relayed that Dempsey said a great, big hug on stage would have to wait until 2021.

“I’m like ‘What a great end to a Zoom meeting,'” Henry said. “Not all my Zoom meetings end with promised hugs, from Patrick Dempsey of all.”

Henry hasn’t previously participated in the Dempsey Challenge, but his work with cancer echoes the vision and mission set forth by Dempsey, his mother, and the Dempsey Center.

First diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2007, Henry continues to battle a disease that has returned multiple times. That led him to help create the Men’s Cancer Network at Caring Connections, the cancer support program at the Bangor Region YMCA, which nominated him for the award.

2020 Amanda Dempsey Award winner Jonathan Henry. Submitted photo

“We get a great group every month, of guys who will ask questions, they talk, they share. Sometimes you hear ‘Oh, men don’t like to talk,’ which is true, a lot of times, about their health issues. But in that room, in that trusted space, that sacred space that we create, men talk. They ask, they grieve, they laugh, we joke. We use all forms of emotion to do it,” Henry said.

“Personally, of course, it’s just an honor to be selected because I’m one of just so many people who are survivors in the state of Maine who are doing this kind of work,” Henry added. “You know, volunteering and making meaning out of something that’s really horrible, and trying to sort of pay it forward.”

Henry said he was first shocked to learn he had won the award, and humbled, thinking that his work wasn’t exceptional.

“But once I started to dig deeper, and especially when I spoke with the (Dempsey) family and learned about the history of Amanda Dempsey and the award itself, I felt proud,” he said. “I really felt proud of the time that I’ve invested in this work because it’s not how I earn my living, but it’s what helps define my purpose.”

Henry said he had been planning on driving to the Dempsey Center for services, but now has taken advantage of some virtual seminars.

“And of course their mission is statewide, so they didn’t care that I was from Bangor (when choosing Henry’s nomination for the award),” he said.

“What (winning the award) does is it motivates me to continue this work, to realize that somebody has noticed that the gift of time and love of those in need makes a difference,” Henry added. “And it propels you forward.”

MAXWELL MANS UP

Like Henry, Trevor Maxwell found that talking to others about cancer helps in the battle against the disease.

The Cape Elizabeth resident and former Sun Journal writer was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer in March 2018. A few months into his treatment he discovered services offered at the Dempsey Center.

“I was going through a very tough period at the time with my mental health. I attended a support group and immediately felt at home,” Maxwell said. “When you have cancer, there is nothing like connecting with others who are going through the same experience.”

Trevor Maxwell, stage IV colon cancer survivor and founder of the Man Up to Cancer podcast. Submitted photo

Maxwell wanted to be part of helping connect those dealing with cancer, so he created a company called Man Up to Cancer. The company will partner with the Dempsey Center for virtual roundtable discussions later this year.

But first, Maxwell will be taking on the Dempsey Challenge for the first time this weekend.

“I’m thrilled to be a part of it,” he said. “I have been chipping away at the 50-mile ride on my bike trainer at home, and I will be joining some other riders at the Dempsey Center in person on Saturday for the Zwift group ride. I want to be part of a world record (virtual group ride).”

Maxwell has raised more than $3,500 for the Challenge, all through Facebook, and as part of the Musette Restaurant fundraising team that has collectively brought in more than $27,000.

“I have been so grateful for the response. The donations, no matter what size, all make a difference. I exceeded my goal and I’m still pushing,” he said.

“I truly understand the amazing impact the Dempsey Center makes on individuals and families with cancer, now that I have leaned on their team for support for these past few years,” Maxwell added.

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