Picture This

Heal, Winter 2007, Volume 1, Issue 3

A calendar by survivors in Moab, Utah, is educating townspeople about cancer.

In a calendar from the tiny town of Moab, Utah, every month has a picture and accompanying story of one resident’s cancer experience. The pictures in the calendar range from the traditional, like Lyn Goodnight posing with her daughter, to the more eccentric, like Alan West holding up his prosthetic ear. Those stories are educating townspeople not just about each other, but also about issues surrounding cancer.

Cervical cancer survivor Goodnight has lived in Moab for just two years. But people come up to her and say, “Aren’t you in that calendar?”

Fourteen Moab locals are featured in the 2008 Cancer Survivors Calendar, created by two-time breast cancer survivor Pat Wucherer, who appears in her photo naked from the waist up wearing two strategically placed pumpkins.

“It’s a small town and most people know the people in the calendar,” Wucherer says of Moab, which has a population of less than 5,000. “For every one of those people in the calendar, there’s five who have cancer and don’t want that out in the public.”

Wucherer’s goal in creating the survivors’ calendar was not only to spread awareness about cancer, but also to begin a dialogue within the community. “I go to our farmers’ market on Saturdays and I talk about this and it’s amazing how many people don’t know,” she says of the advancements in cancer screening technology since she was first diagnosed in 1987.

The calendars sell for $8, with $5 going to the American Cancer Society’s local Relay for Life to support cancer research, and $3 for a trust fund to pay for future calendars. (A grant from a local nonprofit thrift store, along with local sponsors, funded the 2008 calendar.) Wucherer says she has noticed more people in the community talking about cancer since the launching of the calendar. “People look through the calendar before they buy it and say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know she had [cancer].’ ”

Diagnosed with cervical cancer 18 years ago, Goodnight agrees, and adds that cancer discussions have also begun in her family. “It’s opened up me and my daughter to talk about it, too, because she is 16 years old and I might have had to have a hysterectomy and wouldn’t have been able to have her,” Goodnight says.

Lee Goodman, an 18-year brain cancer survivor featured in the calendar, says cancer is sometimes seen as a frightening word, but the calendar has helped alleviate that connotation. Told she had one year to live after her diagnosis, Goodman contributes her mixture of “pumpkin head” humor (see photo at left) and courage to the cause. “It’s all about statistics,” she says. “So why can’t I be part of the 2 percent instead of the 98 percent?”

Eight additional survivors have already signed up for the 2009 calendar, and Wucherer says she has ideas of what she would like to see in it, even though a committee makes the photo selections. “I’m hoping next year we’ll get people to be a little more flamboyant.”