Can­cer survivor plans an­nual pic­nic to in­spire heal­ing

Event is open to all af­fected by the dis­ease

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By SARA NEW­MAN snew­man@somd­news.com

Jim Dobbs has had some bad luck with can­cer over the past few years but de­cided an an­nual out­reach event has be­come too important not to con­tinue.

“In the be­gin­ning, it was just me say­ing thank you to ev­ery­one for help­ing me and stand­ing be­hind me.

Now, more peo­ple want to get in­volved,” Dobbs, a Golden Beach res­i­dent, said of his event.

It be­gan in 2013 when Dobbs wanted to hold a cel­e­bra­tory pic­nic to thank his friends for all their sup­port when he was di­ag­nosed with pan­cre­atic can­cer.

“I’m go­ing to plan one hel­luva pic­nic to thank ev­ery­one,” he told the Mary­land In­de­pen­dent at the time af­ter hear­ing he was can­cer free from his doc­tor.

How­ever, that sta­tus didn’t last long. In 2015 Dobbs was di­ag­nosed with small bowel can­cer and then stom­ach can­cer in 2016. He cur­rently has a two cen­time­ter mass in his stom­ach mus­cle and is con­sid­er­ing hav­ing surgery to re­move it.

“I’ve got no pan­creas, no spleen, no gall blad­der. I’m ner­vous about tak­ing out my stom­ach,” Dobbs said.

He has con­tin­ued to host the pic­nics — ex­cept in 2015 when he had just been re­leased from the hos­pi­tal — in an ef­fort to of­fer sim­i­lar sup­port that he re­ceived dur­ing his first di­ag­no­sis. Af­ter com­ing face to face with his own mor­tal­ity, Dobbs sees these pic­nics as his way of pay­ing it for­ward.

“I’ve lost a lot of friends to can­cer over the last four years and I al­ways won­der, why am I still here and they’re not?” Dobbs said. “I think sur­vival is guilt. It both­ers me a lot but to do some­thing like this takes my mind off of it and I’m giv­ing back to ever yone. I’m pay­ing it for­ward.”

This year’s Jim’s An­nual Can­cer-Free Pic­nic will take place Satur­day, April 22, at the Brook­side Pavil­ion in Gil­bert Run Park from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. In keep­ing with tra­di­tion, the pic­nic will have lots of mu­sic, food, per­form­ers and games and will serve as an open house for any­one who has been im­pacted by can­cer — whether a survivor, care­giver or loved one of some­one who lost their bat­tle — to gather and have fun.

“I don’t do it for my­self, I want to do it for ev­ery­one else,” Dobbs said. “So peo­ple will know, we’re out here and there’s al­ways some­body to talk to.”

“We have so much fun even if you don’t know cer­tain peo­ple you feel that con­nec­tion be­cause they’re ei­ther a can­cer survivor or a friend of Jim’s,” Mary Lu­bet­ski, a for­mer class­mate and friend of Dobbs’ for 50 years, said of the pic­nics. Lu­bet­ski said she’s been to ev­ery one of the pic­nics and sees how the pos­i­tive en­vi­ron­ment lifts peo­ple’s spir­its.

“[Jim] al­ways lets us know how it’s go­ing and he al­ways has so much sup­port,” Lu­bet­ski said. “It’s dev­as­tat­ing when you hear bad things but he has so much sup­port and there’s so many peo­ple there to help him get through it.”

It’s that con­stant sup­port that Dobbs cred­its with get­ting him through his mul­ti­ple di­ag­noses and why he feels com­pelled to keep the pic­nics go­ing.

In ad­di­tion to the sup­port of his exwife and chil­dren — daugh­ter, Jessie and her hus­band, Daniel, and their chil­dren, Avery, 12, and Au­tumn, 8, who live in Ger­many, and son, James, who lives in Wood­bridge — his neigh­bors are al­ways check­ing in on him, he loves his doc­tors, and his reg­u­lar Dunkin’ Donuts stop in Char­lotte Hall who know him by name and never charge him.

Though he had to retire from his job at All Amer­i­can Am­bu­lance, a med­i­cal trans­porta­tion com­pany, he said they con­tinue to be a big part of his re­cov­ery.

I tell peo­ple get­ting can­cer was the best thing that hap­pened to me be­cause it makes me look at life dif­fer­ently. I’ve changed my eat­ing habits, I’m more out­go­ing with peo­ple,” Dobbs said.

He fo­cuses on eat­ing healthy meals con­sist­ing of a lot of fish, no junk food but still has to have his coffee in the morn­ings. He re­ceives chemo­ther­apy treat­ments for two weeks and then has one week off which will con­tinue un­til the sum­mer and has monthly doc­tor vis­its where he has lab work done.

“I feel great ex­cept for the bouts where the chemo takes ef­fect and I don’t have any strength but I do feel good, I try to get out and ex­er­cise and do things but I have my good days and my bad days,” Dobbs said.

De­spite sur­pass­ing the ma­jor­ity of pan­cre­atic can­cer sur­vivors, Dobbs said he feels he’s “liv­ing on bor­rowed time.”

“I don’t plan on go­ing any­where but you never know,” Dobbs said. “I don’t know how many times I can beat the sys­tem.”

He says he hopes to con­tinue host­ing the pic­nics ev­ery year for as long as he can.

“I want ev­ery­one to come, I don’t care who you are. I want you to come and have a good time and get to know these peo­ple,” Dobbs said. “For peo­ple go­ing through can­cer it’s nice to have some­one else to talk to.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Jim Dobbs, front cen­ter, smiles with friends at the first an­nual can­cer-free pic­nic in 2013.

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