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Luncheon of Hope: Sharon Hampson of 'Sharon, Lois & Bram' addresses a room of fellow breast cancer survivors

Cancer has hit the famed kids' musical group hard, with Lois Lilienstein passing away from cancer in 2015

Sharon Hampson of the famed Canadian kids' musical group “Sharon, Lois & Bram” led the audience at the 21st annual Luncheon of Hope in a rousing rendition of the group's hit song “Skinnamarink.”

With that kind of nostalgia, you wouldn't think it would be possible for Hampson — this year's guest speaker at the popular Northern Cancer Foundation breast cancer fundraising event — to be upstaged.

But then a group of local breast cancer survivors — both men and women — got on stage and sang “We Are Survivors,” an adapted version of Queen's “We Are The Champions.”

There was hardly a dry eye among the sold-out crowd of more than 600 at the Caruso Club, and Hampson herself gave the singers a standing ovation.

Hampson, now age 76, is a three-time breast cancer survivor, an experience she shared with many in the audience at the Luncheon of Hope.

Cancer, it turns out, hit “Sharon, Lois & Bram” hard.

Lois Lilienstein passed away in 2015 from endometrial cancer. 

Lilienstein retired from the group 20 years ago after her husband died from cancer, although Hampson and Bram Morrison still perform as “Sharon & Bram.”

Morrison's wife also had cancer, and Hampson's husband Joe passed away from lung cancer 13 years ago.

“Everybody is touched by it,” Hampson said in an interview with Sudbury.com before her speech. “Either they've had it, or their friend or their family. Nobody escapes being touched by cancer.”

She said she was first diagnosed with breast cancer in her right breast in 1988, at the age of 45.  Hampson was at the doctor's office having some other health concerns dealt with, and her doctor suggested a mammogram — not a test women of that age usually receive.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer in the same breast again in 1993, and then again in 2005. 

Over the years, she's undergone several surgeries, including lumpectomies and finally a mastectomy, as well as radiation treatment.

Hampson said she has the gene for breast cancer, although that's fortunately not been passed along to her daughter.

“In 2005 I faced another breast cancer diagnosis, my third, and then mastectomy surgery,” she said during her speech.

“That of course was a dreadful blow. My daughter said to me the first thing I said to her when they wheeled me out of the surgery was 'I'm so glad you don't have that effing gene.' I'm sure I didn't say 'effing.'”

Hampson continued to perform throughout her treatments, although they did have to send the crew of their kids' show “The Elephant Show” home for a few weeks after one of her surgeries.

She said she actually wrote a holiday song called “With Bells On” as a way to cope while undergoing radiation treatment.

Hampson also spoke about the fears common to breast cancer survivors.

“Though women experience breast cancer in different ways, there is much we share,” she said. “Concern for our daughters, our sons, our partners, our parents, and of course the fear that we won't be with them long enough.

“I wanted to be around to sing for my grandchildren, as I had sung for many other grandchildren, and indeed I have sung for Ethan and Elijah, my grandsons.”

Tannys Laughren, Northern Cancer Foundation executive director, admitted she was “fangirling all morning” after meeting Hampson.

“You go back to your own childhood, you go back to your kids' childhoods,” she said.

“We've been sold out for over a month, and certainly it's a combination of people wanting to support the local cancer centre, but it's also the fact that it's Sharon Hampson.

“For her to be willing to share this message of hope is going to be incredible. It comes from great loss, but yet she's still here, and she's got this positive message that she wants to share with everybody.”

At the end of the Luncheon of Hope, organizers announced this year's event brought in $73,000. 

Laughren said the Northern Cancer Foundation is “edging up on $1 million” raised through the Luncheon of Hope, which is planned by a committee of volunteers.

Proceeds from this year's event go toward the purchase of the Incucyte S3 Live Cell Analysis System.

The equipment allows cells to be measured continuously so new insights into biological processes and changes can be done via real time.

With greater understanding of cell activity, researchers can run multiple tests and devise new experiments that will lead to better insight and treatment for breast cancer.

“The legacy of this event, you see it in our patients, you see it in our survivors, you see it in our oncologists,” Laughren said. “It's amazing.”



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