PITTSFIELD -- Jim Armstrong is a cancer survivor.
The 65-year-old Pittsfield man is on the verge of being declared cancer-free, nearly a year after doctors found a three-centimeter malignant mass on his esophagus.
Chemotherapy, radiation and surgery were the medical cures, but Armstrong says his sense of humor and Catholic faith helped him handle the life-threatening ordeal.
"The prayers of people really carried me through," said Armstrong. "If I don't have their support to get me through, I don't make it."
The active member of St. Joseph's Church in Pittsfield plans to share his story with hundreds of other cancer survivors and their families from across Western Massachusetts expected to attend the third annual Pink Mass and Celebration of Hope later this month.
Sponsored in part by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, the Pink Mass is Sept. 14 at 4 p.m. at St. Michael's Cathedral on State Street in Springfield. The service also will remember those who have died from cancer.
The Mass will be broadcast the following morning Sept. 15 at 10 a.m. on WWLP-22, Channel 14, on the Berkshire Time Warner Cable system. The Pink Mass will be part of the weekly diocesan program, "Chalice of Salvation."
The Celebration of Hope gala dinner, an officially recognized nonprofit fundraiser, will follow the Mass at 6 p.m. at the Springfield Lodge of Elks on Tiffany Street. Net proceeds from the dinner benefit four cancer-related charities in the Springfield area: Cancer House of Hope, the Rays of Hope and Prostate Cancer through Baystate Health Foundation, and Mercy Medical Center's Caritas Cancer Center.
While cancer survivors are the center of attention, Pink Mass and Celebration of Hope organizers believe all involved in fighting the disease deserve recognition.
"We also want to focus on the caregivers, often the forgotten heroes in all this," said Barbara Turcotte, chairwoman of the Celebration of Hope board of directors.
Frank Ryan hasn't forgotten how his wife -- a breast cancer survivor -- and his Catholic faith helped him overcame cancer of the vocal chords 10 years ago.
"She was there for me every step of the way and I had a lot of people pray for me," said the town of Florida resident.
A deacon at Sts. Patrick and Raphael Parish in Williamstown, Ryan is thankful he can still preach from the pulpit, but quips about how treatment affected one of his pastimes.
"It ruined the best part of my golf game -- yelling, ‘Fore!,' " he said.