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Concert to benefit local man

By: Leah Rosasco, Loomis News Correspondent
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An outpouring of support has given a fourth-generation Loomis resident battling stage four cancer a new appreciation for his community. In July, Peter Oakes, 51, was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck, a type of skin cancer than can also affect internal areas of the body. Since then, he has completed two rounds of aggressive chemotherapy and will undergo 10 weeks of radiation. “Going through chemo was the worst I’ve ever felt,” Oakes said. “It felt like every cell in my body was exploding.” Friends of Oakes have organized a benefit concert from 5:30 to 9 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 30, at Blue Anchor Stage – the very stage Oakes was instrumental in building for last year’s Content, Creation and Distribution Expo. Admission is free, but donations will be collected. Volunteers have been working on the concert, which will feature solo acts, ensemble performers, and a drum circle. Eric Chun, who co-produced the CCD Expo with Oakes, said the goal is to have at least 300 people at the concert. “With Peter going through treatment, we couldn’t have the Expo this year, so we decided to have a community event that would help raise funds for his fight against cancer,” Chun said. In February, Oakes went to the doctor for what he believed was a recurring infection or allergic reaction. Oakes declined additional tests the doctors suggested to rule out more serious conditions because he doesn’t have health insurance. He said he felt sporadic relief from some of his symptoms, but five months later he was in the emergency room unable to breathe. “It got so bad I couldn’t sleep and I was choking a lot and coughing,” Oakes said. “I could see that whatever it was, it wasn’t going away.” Oakes’ fiancée, Yvonne Heimann, said she believes Oakes symptoms began late last year. “He started snoring and he would stop breathing in the middle of the night,” Heimann said. “He had never done those things before, but at the time it didn’t occur to me that it might be cancer.” Oakes said his main concern was for his finances and his loved ones. He said his son, Ian, was killed in a car accident in 2006, and learning he had cancer was nothing compared to learning of his son’s death. “There is nothing you can hear that is worse than hearing you lost a child,” Oakes said. “I had zero fear about the cancer.” Although Oakes’ cancer has been identified as stage four, he said he has it much easier than most people with the same diagnosis, based on the type of cancer he has. Since completing chemotherapy, Oakes said he is 99 percent symptom-free and he has an 85 percent chance of full recovery. Oakes said he feels good about his future. “I’m one of the lucky ones, because my chances are very good,” he said. Oakes also said he feels lucky to witness the support that has poured out to him, not just from friends and family, but from the community. Donations of food, money and resources have come from complete strangers. “I’m not used to being on the receiving end and it’s amazing how generous people are,” Oakes said. Curtis Hildebrand is the lead singer of Stillwood Sage, one of four bands that will perform at the concert. Hildebrand, whose wife is a breast-cancer survivor, said he’s never met Oakes, but he and his band are happy to perform at the concert. “It’s important to stick by people who are going through tough times,” Hildebrand said. “In a situation like this it’s important to bring as many happy things to people as you can.” PETER OAKES BENEFIT CONCERT What: Fundraiser with music, food, raffles When: 5:30 to 9 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 30 Where: Blue Anchor Stage at the Loomis Train Depot Cost: Free, donations will be collected Information: (530) 613-9440