Spirits of the Season opportunity for food & drink and to help cancer patients

Becky Campbell • Updated Nov 28, 2017 at 11:02 PM

If you had asked Suzanne Hunsinger this time last year if she would live to see Christmas 2017, she probably would have said no — which also gave doubt she’d live to participate in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life in June and an upcoming fundraiser, Spirits of the Season, each providing assistance to local cancer patients.

In late 2016 and into early 2017, Suzanne was going through multiple rounds of high-powered chemotherapy that made her nauseated, decimated her appetite and caused her to nearly become bedridden. She needed help from her husband, Todd, to even get out of bed and walk around in the house.

She felt like her daughter’s teenage milestones were slipping by as she lay trapped in a cancer-ridden body.

Since then, Hunsinger made the tough decision to stop the treatments. She had been going through chemo and other cancer treatments off and on since 2006, and felt she just couldn’t take any more.

Her husband didn’t like it and neither did their daughter, Casey. Suzanne said she would never give other patients medical advice, nor would she encourage them to stop their treatments. But for Suzanne, the toll on her body was too much.

Her husband wasn’t letting her off the hook completely. 

“He said, ‘You’ve got to do something,’” to get healthy and have better quality of life, she said Monday, recalling that conversation with her husband. He already had something in mind after he had met a personal trainer at a local gym and listening to the man encourage his clients.

Shawn Dunn, that personal trainer, would turn Suzanne’s life around. In the six months she’s been working with Dunn, Suzanne said she feels the best she has since that first diagnosis 11 years ago.

When she says Dunn turned her life around, that’s exactly what she means.

Everything from the water she drinks to each bite she takes changed, and it’s made all the difference in the world. The change has given Hunsinger back the fighting spirit she almost lost. And with that spirit, she takes action to raise money for the local American Cancer Society, which  provides financial assistance to patients right here in Johnson City and Washington County.

“All the money stays here,” she said. It’s part of the reason she’s so passionate about Relay for Life and why she put her decorating talent to work to create a Christmas tree for auction on Friday at the 2017 Spirits of the Season. Hunsinger’s tree, along with four others and several Christmas wreaths, will be the spoils of a silent auction. That money, and sales from the $60 tickets, stays local to help local patients in need, she said.

Spirits of the Season, described as “an evening of holiday wines, spirits, and music paired with delectable food prepared by the Johnson City Country Club,” is also hosted by One Stop Wines & Spirits.

“Because of One Stop Wines & Spirits’ generosity, 100 percent of your ticket price helps the American Cancer Society attack cancer from every angle,” an event announcement card stated. “Your donation is not only providing ground breaking research, but also helping patients get free rides to treatment, free lodging near hospitals, and a 24/7 cancer help line.”

Suzanne said she was always fortunate to have a support system that provided transportation to her many doctor appointments. But she realizes that not everyone with a cancer diagnosis has that same system. That’s why she’s such a fierce supporter of the American Cancer Society and the local fundraisers that provide assistance to local patients.

One Stop owner Phil Scharfstein said his participation is a way to help the community and kick off the holiday season.

“One Stop Wines is thrilled to host Spirits of the Season again, along with the Johnson City Country Club,” Scharfstein said. “It gives us the opportunity to invite the community to kick off the holiday season, present some of our finest selections and, most importantly, help raise funds for the American Cancer Society’s mission.”

Tickets for the event are $60 and available online at www.spiritsoftheseason.org or at One Stop Wines and Spirits locations. For more information, call the American Cancer Society at 423-957-0296 or visit www.cancer.org.

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