To have cancer and undergo chemotherapy during any time of the year is not a pleasant experience. To have to do it over the holidays makes it worse. A local couple who suffered through cancer and chemotherapy over the Christmas holidays is raising money to help local cancer patients through the second annual Christmas Cheer Lip Sync Competition. The competition will be held this Saturday at the Lincoln Cultural Center.
Dwayne McAllister’s cancer was found quite by chance. During Labor Day 2014 while on a trip to the beach, he got out of the water and complained about having water in his ear. This eventually led to a trip to the doctor when they got home and several prescriptions of prednisone. When the steroids wore off, the symptoms returned. McAllister was referred to an ear, nose and throat doctor.
“The doctor had absolutely no reason to scope his nose,” Monica McAllister said. “He even told him if he scoped his nose, his insurance wouldn’t pay for it. At that point, Dwayne was very frustrated and said ‘whatever, if it’s going to make me hear better then go for it.’ That’s how he found the tumor.”
That was a lucky find because nasal tumors often go undetected, Monica McAllister said. Ear, nose and throat cancer is hard to detect early.
This caused a great deal of concern for the McAllisters because Dwayne had lost four uncles and two first cousins, all males, to cancer.
“It was stage one cancer and they told him that he didn’t need to do anything yet, but given his family history, Dwayne wanted to treat it in the most aggressive way possible,” Monica McAllister said. “They treated him like it was stage four cancer. He had radiation and large doses of chemo. The chemo treatments were so deadly you could only get one treatment every 21 days, but he had to wait 31 days.”
Dwayne McAllister ended up in the hospital the last week of treatment. He had lost 60 pounds in six weeks. Monica had to agree to give him nutrition through his port in order for him to be able to go home, which she said was very scary because she felt like his life was in her hands.
“By God’s grace, we survived,” she said. “I say we because I literally felt like I went through it with him even though I didn’t. He was really tough and brave.”
While they were going through treatments, they realized that there were other people there who didn’t have family or friends with them. They also found out that some of the nurses were buying Christmas presents for patients who had no one.
“When we heard that, we said ‘no way,’” Monica McAllister said. “As long as we’re living and able, they’ll never do that again.”
During the first year after Dwayne McAllister’s treatment, the couple scraped together enough money to give $10 Walmart gift cards and blankets to 50 cancer patients. The next year, they purchased items and did raffles through Facebook to raise money. They ran the first lip sync competition last year and raised a little over $5,000. The Lincoln Cultural Center donates the space for the competition so all proceeds go directly to local cancer patients.
“We’ve had so much support through friends, family and even complete strangers,” Monica McAllister said. “We don’t want to do this like Make a Wish, we want to give them hope. My husband always jokes with them and tells them that he didn’t always have this wonderful figure and shows them a picture of what he looked like when he was going through chemo to let them know that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”
One such stranger who helped out is Victor Camp, who attended the competition last year. He was so taken by the event that he told the McAlisters that he’d like to help out in any way he could. They took him up on his offer and convinced him to be one of the competitors this year.
“I’m kind of a shy person,” Camp said. “I went to this thing last year at the last minute. When I got there and found out what the cause was and seeing all the work the people put into it, I decided it would be something I’d try to do to help out. I have been practicing but it’s going to be very different for me. My wife’s always telling me ‘please don’t sing’ but maybe if I lip sync it’ll be okay.”
Who knows, maybe he’ll discover a new talent.
There are 8 teams competing this year. The performance is this Saturday, Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. at the Lincoln Cultural Center. Tickets are $10 and available at the door and additional donations are accepted. The Lincoln Cultural Center is located at 403 East Main Street in Lincolnton. T-shirts are also available for purchase during the event.