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Facing Cancer With Determination, Smiles

Sundance Therapies owner Sara Doherty, who will undergo a stem cell "rescue" later this month, says community support – including a fundraiser this Sunday – has been essential in helping her through treatment so far.


There is not one depressing thing about talking to Sara Doherty. She positively radiates joy. No small thing for a woman who has been undergoing chemotherapy for the past 14 months and is soon to have a stem cell "rescue," forcing her to be apart from her two young daughters for a month.

Doherty was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in July 2011. To help her cover costs that won't be covered by insurance, Bob and Mary Ann Hartman of Back to Basics, together with another friend of Doherty's, have planned "Smiles and Sangria for Sara," a fundraiser at the East Greenwich Fireman's Hall.

The "smiles" part of the fundraiser name is particularly apt: Doherty's smile is megawatt strong. It's a part of who she is and she recognizes her positive attitude is helping her through this. But she credits the support of others with giving her a needed extra boost.

"I'm completely humbled and grateful," said Doherty. "We are so blessed with a beautiful community."

She acknowledged she's had to learn to say "yes" to help. And she's been amazed at all the places help has come from: the Main Street community, her daughters' school (Cedar Hill) and sports teams (Ocean State Soccer, Aim High Gymnastics), and the other therapists at Sundance.

"There are so many different areas of my life with people coming together and helping out," she said.

The hardest part, she said, is having to be apart from her daughters for the stem cell treatment.

"To leave them for a month," said Doherty. "I don’t care what you do with me physically, but to be away from the girls..."

She told Ava, 8, and Lauren, 7, last week. Not surprisingly, there were tears. But, she told them, "this is a beautiful lesson for you at an early age. Going forward, you won’t sweat the small stuff. We’re going to get through this and be stronger than ever."

Thankfully, Doherty said, her parents are moving down from Massachusetts while she's at Dana Farber and for the month or two after it will take her to recuperate.

"There’s still a high cure rate here. I’ve never doubted that I would make it thru this," she said. "I have to do this and I have to do this with a smile on my face."

"Smiles and Sangria for Sara" takes place Sunday, Sept. 16, at 5 p.m. There will be food, music, and a silent auction. If you are interested in attending or have something to donate for the auction, contact Bob or MaryAnn Hartman at or send an email to smilesforsara@gmail.com. Tickets are also available at , .

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