School board makes deep cuts, adopts austerity budget

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:51

    WARWICK—Warwick's beauty doesn't just come from the scenery. It's not just the open pastures or serene Greenwood Lake. It is more than Mt. Adam and Mt. Eve rising above the black dirt of Pine Island, the many apple orchards, or the quaint downtown. Warwick's beauty comes from its people — people like Carol McManus. McManus, 62, has given much to Warwick, especially through the Lions Club, where she serves as president. She has been the race director of the organization's Labor Day 5K for the past decade. It takes a tremendous effort to put on this fundraising race, which has become a community event. But McManus handles it, year after year, with grace and professionalism. She is the driving force behind the race, which provides all the funding for the school district's Lions Quest program, one of the most effective character education programs in the world. This year is different for McManus. She is still leading the charge, with her stacks of race applications at the ready for mailing this coming weekend. But the race, although all-consuming at times, has competition this year from a more pressing matter. McManus was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in January. "I just fell apart," said McManus, her strong runner's body a deceiving front to the disease that has weakened her body but not her spirit. This is one way the race will change this September. McManus knows what the odds are with this disease. This year about 32,180 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the fourth-leading cause of death among all cancers in this country. "That's got to tell you something about this disease," McManus said. She wants to educate people about it and also to raise some money through the race for research. Funding for pancreatic cancer is small — just $36.5 million was spent on pancreatic cancer research in 2003. That is less than 1 percent of the National Cancer Institute's $4.6 billion cancer research budget. This year's application includes a box you can check to donate funds to the American Cancer Society. Information on pancreatic cancer will be available at the race. Those wishing to donate may do so directly to "PanCan," as it is called. McManus isn't exactly at the top of the list for those most at risk for pancreatic cancer. She is not a smoker and doesn't have diabetes. She is not male or African-American. There is no family history, and she has never had any incidence of chronic pancreatitis. Her only risk factor is age: she is over 60, but only slightly. According to the National Cancer Institute, there is no known cause of pancreatic cancer and doctors can seldom explain why one person will get pancreatic cancer and another will not. The symptoms are tricky. Pancreatic cancer is sometimes called a "silent disease" because in its early stages, when it is more likely to be controlled, symptoms seldom show. As the cancer grows and spreads, more symptoms present themselves. They include pain in the upper abdomen or upper back, yellow skin and eyes, dark urine from jaundice, weakness, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, and weight loss. These symptoms certainly are not definitive. Many other less critical illnesses can cause the same symptoms, which is why it can be difficult to diagnose the disease. For McManus it all started when she was having dental work last fall. She chalked up her slight weight loss and her lack of appetite to the fact that her mouth wasn't the same. She had a bit of discomfort in her stomach, again chalking it up to poor digestion because of her teeth. She had a little pain under her shoulder but she's a runner. "Things go out of whack sometimes," she said. The holidays were coming, so her fatigue seemed normal for the time of year. Overall, she didn't feel herself. She began to feel depressed. She can see it now in the pictures taken at Christmas time. Her doctor, Dr. Fiore, suggested she have some tests done. Over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend, she got the bad news. "Eventually they found five cancerous tumors on the tail of the pancreas," said McManus. "It metastasized to the liver, the lymphatic system, and the colon." Where did she find the strength in light of this devastating news? McManus looked at her husband. "He is my hero," she said. "George came home and searched out every hospital to get the best facility in the city. He pulled in every favor that was owed to him." He was at her side every step of the way. He investigated drug trials all over the country. Because of him, McManus got her diagnosis, three opinions, and into treatment in three weeks — a nearly unheard-of speed. And McManus's news is hopeful. Since entering a drug trial at Columbia Medical Center in February, her cancer has not spread. It is still there, she said, but it is under control right now. "Every day is precious," she said. She doesn't talk much about herself when discussing this disease. Instead she talks about how it is affecting her five grown kids, her 13 grandchildren, and her beloved George. Her entire family will be with her this Labor Day weekend — and that includes her sisters and brother, who will come to Warwick from throughout the country. They are planning a weekend-long celebration and they will all participate in the race on September 5 that Carol McManus, quietly and modestly, put on the map. And while Carol and George fight their fight together, they give thanks to their community. "I can't thank the people of Warwick enough," said Carol. "When I notified the sponsors of the race that I was sick, I asked them if they wanted to back out. Instead, they gave more." That is the beauty of Warwick — people like Carol McManus, and those who have come to her aid. The race is open to runners and walkers. There are cash prizes and medals for the top male and female walkers and runners. In addition, medals will be awarded to the top three runners in each age group, both male and female. For more information on the Warwick Lions Labor Day 5K, visit the Warwick Lions website at For more information on pancreatic cancer, please go to the website