Helping a friend

By Lisa Williams Ackley

Staff Writer

BROTHERS IN FIGHTING CANCER — Paul McLaughlin Sr., (at left) was recently diagnosed with throat cancer, and a benefit for Paul on Dec. 3 at the Lovell Fire Station is being spearheaded by his good friend Scott Thomas, who has been fighting his own cancer battle for five years now. (Ackley Photo)

LOVELL — When Scott Thomas, who has been fighting his own battle with cancer for five years now, found out his good friend Paul McLaughlin Sr. had cancer, he went home and went to bed — and that’s when the idea to hold a benefit supper for Paul came to him — in a dream.

“At four o’clock in the morning, I woke up and all I heard was ‘Paul McLaughlin,’” said Scott, “and I said I knew what I had to do — hold a dinner for Paul, and if that isn’t from up above, I don’t know what is!  I had that four a.m. wakening, and I never wake up at that time of the morning!”

Like Paul, Scott has an indomitable sense of humor that buoys him up during the difficult times.

Both men were having chemotherapy treatments Monday — it was the first time for Paul, and five years later, Scott knows it is what has kept him alive.

Scott finds that by helping other cancer patients like himself, it helps him to get through his own journey a little easier.

“You can’t look too far ahead,” said Scott. “I go from picture to picture — that’s what I call it — from CAT scan to CAT scan. Whatever the picture shows dictates the next 12 weeks of my journey. We don’t make plans too far ahead. We joke about it…Basically, you live with it (the cancer). I joke every day with my cancer, asking it, ‘Can we play nice in the sandbox today? Can we share our toys, again today?’ Because, you never know when it’s going to turn on you. It will be five years, Thanksgiving Day.”

Asked if he can explain the inner strength he draws upon to fight his cancer, Scott replied, “All I know is, you can accept this two ways — fight it or go home. I’ve been a fighter, since I was a kid. I was an athlete in school, and I had good coaches who told me, ‘Never quit, keep trying harder and the work you put into it will reap the rewards of life.’ The journey is the focus — staying one step ahead of the cancer. I believe it’s good therapy for me to go out and do a motivational speech, and I have done them in Augusta and Vermont.”

It is true that you get more from giving than receiving, said Scott.

“You find cleansing, in helping someone, but it also refreshes your batteries to fight your own cancer journey,” Scott said. “Every patient I sit with in treatment, when we’re talking, I learn something new every time — they’re all inspirations. Part of my therapy is reaching out to other cancer patients and listening to their story. And, if I can point them to a foundation or organization, I try to help them that way.”

Paul’s situation is “more urgent”

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Benefit supper

A benefit supper for Paul McLaughlin Sr. will be held on Saturday, December 3 at the Lovell Fire Station at 880 Hatch Hill Road (where it intersects with Route 5), from 4 to 7 p.m.

Donations

Those wishing to make a donation to help Paul and his family may send checks to: Norway Savings Bank, 1 Harrison Road, Bridgton, ME, 04009, or to any other Norway Savings Bank branch. Please make checks payable to the Paul McLaughlin Benefit Fund.

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“With Paul, I felt the situation was more urgent, because of the size of his family, the more difficult it gets,” stated Scott. “We’re just trying to get him a jumpstart on where he’s going.”

Scott went on to say, “Having to fight to get what your (health) insurance entitles you to, at the first, is a very tough battle. So, you get a double whammy, going in and finding out you’ve got cancer and then the insurance battle. My case was cut and dried — my colon cancer spread to my liver, kidney and spots on my lung. Up front, my prognosis wasn’t good, as far as time — they said I should get things in order, and that was five years ago! I don’t like to do them (chemotherapy treatments) — but, if that’s what it takes! You look forward to that next drink of life and hope it shrinks it. I’ve been blessed — I know I have. I call myself a ‘closet Christian’ — I don’t go to church, but I used to — and I pray three times a day. I always tell patients the first time I meet them, ‘You need to put your trust in God.’ I don’t know what God wants me to do, but he’s keeping me around for something!”

“I’ve got three goals,” said Scott, “seeing the kids graduate from high school, walking my daughter down the aisle for her wedding, and holding a grandchild. That’s about a 15-year plan, so I’ve got to stick around for another 15 years to see it all happen!”

Like Paul, Scott has a son who is following in his footsteps, professionally.

Scott’s main concern, after hearing five years ago that he had cancer, was his family’s financial wellbeing.

“I was more worried about that, than anything else,” said Scott. “Jared, who is 20 now, had been helping me for six years, and I finally said, ‘Now’s the time.’”

Scott called his son Jared the family’s “rock,” when he and his wife, Angie, go to Boston for his chemotherapy treatments. The couple also has two other children, 15-year-old Allison and son Spencer, who is 12.

“When we’re in Boston, he’s the rock of the family — he makes sure everyone gets up, meals are done — he runs the whole house. He does everything — and that’s priceless.”

Scott also singled out his wife, Angie.

“She takes care of everything,” said Scott. “When you’re having treatments, thinking about bills and everything — I leave it up to her ­— I can’t take the stress. So, you’ve got to have a partnership — another ‘rock.’”

When told that other people consider him their “rock,” Scott seemed to slip into a reflective mood, gathering his emotions, before he spoke again.

“We’re just trying to be natural — we don’t try to be anyone we’re not,” he said. Scott said further, “My mother’s last words to me were, ‘Give more than you receive.’ You can’t help someone financially, by yourself — but as a team — as a town — every (benefit) function we have, the town really supports it! Everyone pours their hearts out and helps where they can and how they can, and you just don’t see that everywhere! Why, I’ve got a list of volunteers! Mark Kurnick does the spaghetti, Rachel Kuvaja does desserts, and somewhere in between are Mark Moulton and myself. Things always fall into place — we don’t lose sleep — we don’t sweat it.”

Having been the focus of benefit functions in the past, what is Scott’s advice for Paul to follow at the Dec. 3 benefit supper for him?

Said Scott, “All you do is show up that weekend and be honored — no stress — no worries — just enjoy the evening and the company of the people who show up!”

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