Cancer isn’t stopping volunteer from RiverFest

Published 11:08 am Friday, April 28, 2017

PORT NECHES — Nan Gregg mans the phones at the Port Neches Chamber of Commerce office like a pro.

Clad in a slightly oversized white RiverFest T-shirt and a black hat, Gregg shows no sign of slowing down fielding calls about the upcoming five-day RiverFest celebration. The only clue that something is amiss is when she removes the hat to show a bald head.

The plucky chamber member, employee and volunteer is currently undergoing treatment for cancer and is determined to beat it.

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“On Dec. 22 I found out I was stage-four cancer in four places, lymphoma,” Gregg said in a matter-of-fact tone.

Gregg declined to tell her children of the diagnosis until after the Christmas holidays. She actually didn’t know how far progressed her cancer was until after her first round of chemotherapy in the second week of January.

Cancer, she said, runs in her family. She ticked off a list of close family members who succumbed to the disease.

Debbie Plaia, executive director of the chamber, is a close friend with Gregg.

“She’s over all of our vendors for RiverFest,” Plaia said. “She’s my right-hand girl.”

Lymphoma responds well to chemo, and after Gregg’s third round she underwent a positron emission tomography, or PET, scan which showed two spots of cancer are now completely gone and the other two have decreased and are baseline, she said.

Gregg said she didn’t know who was happier with the results of the PET can, her or her oncologist, Dr. Scott McKinney.

“It’s the power of prayer and positive attitude. Staying busy,” Gregg said.

Plaia and Mary Marineaux, a RiverFest committee member and volunteer, got together and devised a fun way to help Gregg communicate how she’s feeling each day.

“She has different hats for different moods she’s feeling,” Plaia said as she brought out the hats. “If she has the crown on, we know she’s having a good day.”

But if she’s having a bad day there’s a poop emoji hat she can wear. Then there’s the “damn it” ball. A soft, squishy, multi-colored ball that she can toss around if the mood hits her.

Gregg doesn’t shy away from the fact that she lost her hair to chemo. She extolls the American Cancer Society for the work they do to help those with the disease.

“They have free makeup classes and offer free wigs,” Gregg said. “They will teach you how to put on makeup and you get to see the other ladies who are going through this with you. I don’t like to wear wigs. I’d rather go bald.”

Gregg has a collection of special hats — besides the ones at the chamber office — that she can wear.

Port Neches RiverFest celebration kicks off next Wednesday and runs through May 7 and Gregg will be there to help out.
“I’m taking chemo on Wednesday, April 26then there’s RiverFest. I got my vendors to take care of,” she said.

Gregg is undergoing her treatment at Texas Oncology.

“There’s a bell at Texas Oncology that you can ring when you’re in remission,” she said. “I can’t wait to ring that bell.”