By DELANIA TRIGG, City Editor
Gainesville Daily Register
Herman Nieman counts the day he hit a hole-in-one on #10 at the Gainesville Municipal Golf course a turning point in his life.
Nieman, now 87, said hitting the shot of a lifetime in 1973 helped him decide to put away tobacco for good.
“I smoked cigarettes. I smoked a cigar at night. I owned four pipes at one time... The day I hit the hole-in-one, I decided if I could do that, I could quit smoking,” he said, adding that he hasn’t touched cigarettes since then.
Nieman — who was treated for skin cancer — was one of several cancer survivors who turned out for Gainesville Cancer Center’s National Cancer Survivors Day event.
Looking healthy and fit today, Nieman said he attributes his cancer to too much sun exposure as a child.
“I was a caddy when I was a kid in Toledo,” he said.
His caddy job lasted about six years and instilled in him a lifelong devotion to golf. He only recently gave up the sport for health reasons, he said.
And although he probably doesn’t regret his years on the links, he said he is proof that too much sun can be harmful.
Nieman said he was one of the cancer center’s first patients when the center opened in early August 2009.
Like others celebrating life after a cancer diagnosis, he credits the center’s staff with helping make it easier to face a devastating disease.
“This is a good facility,” he said. “But it probably wouldn’t have been so nice if it weren’t for these two young ladies.”
Nieman was referring to staff members Monica Chamberlain, a radiation therapist and Toni Grisham, a medical assistant and office manager at the center.
Both Chamberlain and Grisham were helping their patients and former patients celebrate the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Survivors Day.
The event had a 1950s theme and included subway sandwiches, cookies, boxes of Crack Jack, drinks and gifts for survivors.
Grisham said National Cancer Survivors Day was June 6, but staff members decided to hold their celebration Monday.
Working with individuals who face serious illnesses can be daunting, she said.
But Grisham, dressed in a black poodle skirt and saddle oxfords, said she maintains a bright outlook.
“You have to have stay positive,” she said.
Her patients often face frightening procedures inside a lead-lined room. The equipment which administers the radiation is large and hulking. Radiation patients are left alone in the room on a small table during their treatment.
“It’s scary at first,” Chamberlain said. “But I tell them they really won’t feel anything (during the treatment). By the first week, they aren’t as scared. They’re a lot more comfortable with it.”
Events such as Monday’s Cancer Survivors Day are a welcome change from treatment regimes, she added.
The principal physician at Gainesville Cancer Center is radiation oncologist Tahir Rana, M.D., Ph.D. He is joined by medical oncologists Sushama Jasti, M.D., and Mohammad Qasim, M.D.