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Hilltowns Archives —The Altamont Enterprise, February 2, 2006

Talent Showcase to help Bannon

By Matt Cook

BERNE — The Hilltowns Players are continuing their efforts to help Hilltown residents with cancer.

Money raised at the players’ latest performance, the Talent Showcase next Saturday, will be given to Brenda Bannon, of East Berne, who suffers from gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST).

"I feel blessed that I have people that care about me and that want to support me," Bannon said.

Bannon was diagnosed with the rare cancer in March of 2002. Doctors suspect she has had it since she was a teenager.

GIST is a soft-tissue sarcoma, a cancer that occurs in the connective tissues, bones, muscles, fat, nerves, blood vessels, and cartilage. It’s a series of malignant tumors that spread throughout the gastrointestinal system, including to the liver. GIST is a relatively newly identified form of cancer.

Shortly after she was diagnosed, Bannon said, a new treatment had just come out. She’s on her second treatment now, regularly making the trip to the Dana Farber Institute in Boston for chemotherapy.

Last year, with the odds against her, Bannon celebrated her 40th birthday.

"It was a very big thing because I was diagnosed at 36," she said. "I’m looking forward to 50."

Bannon moved to the Hilltowns from the Syracuse area five years ago. She lives with her husband, Peter, and three sons, ages 11, eight, and five.

"I think they do pretty well," Bannon said of her children. To ease their worries, she said, "I’ve told them that, when I know that I’m going to die soon, I will tell them...They still worry, but I’ve told them they can ask questions anytime they have them."

"My oldest has a pretty strong faith. He seems to be really handling it well," she said.

When asked how she was handling it, Bannon said, "I go to counseling."

A network of friends on and off the Hill and at her job—with the New York State Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services—provide a lot of support she said. She also belongs to two on-line support groups for those with GIST: liferaftgroup.org and gistsupport.org.

Each group has about 500 members from around the world, she said.

"That’s about how many of us there are" that have GIST, Bannon said.

Though she has a good job with good insurance, Bannon appreciates any financial help she can get from the Hilltowns Players fund-raiser.

"It’s still a lot of tests and a lot of co-payments, and a lot of traveling, and a lot of gas," she said.

Talent Showcase

Penny Shaw is co-producing the show and spearheading the fund-raising effort. In the fall, the players raised money for local families dealing with cancer at their musical, Beulah by the Sea, which Shaw wrote. Shaw’s daughter had cancer five years ago, and recovered after a risky bone-marrow transplant.

At the fall production, Shaw said, the players raised over $400 for each of four families.

"I wanted to keep it going," she said. She got Bannon’s name from a friend.

The Talent Showcase consists of locals performing music, magic, comedy and other skills between sets by local bands including the Hilltown Ramblers; Night Train; the Traditional Strings; and alternative rockers, Mile 62.

Shaw herself will be performing a comedy routine as a character named Granny Gertie.

"She shoots from the hip," Shaw said of her character.

The players are looking for talent. Auditions are this Saturday, at 9 a.m., at Lucky’s Tavern in Knox.

"It’s just a good old-fashioned variety show," Shaw said.

A wishing well will be at the show, and everything that goes in it will go to Bannon.

"We just need to help each other," Shaw said. "We really do."


The Hilltown Players’ Talent Showcase will be on Saturday, Feb. 11, at 7:30 p.m. in the auditorium at the Berne-Knox-Westerlo High School. Admission is $3.

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