SOUTH PORTLAND — When Jeff Parsons went on the radio to raise money for cancer research Wednesday morning, he could really relate to the topic.

As a morning host on Portland radio station WJBQ (97.9 FM), Parsons has been helping to host the station’s “Q Cans for a Cure” breast cancer fundraiser for six years. Each year, he and his fellow morning hosts live in an RV at the Maine Mall collection site and broadcast their appeals for cans, bottles and money.

Just a few weeks ago, Parsons himself was diagnosed with cancer — cutaneous B-cell lymphoma — after lumps surfaced on the side of his head.

In fact, he will have to miss the Q Cans for a Cure event today because he is scheduled for a scan and a bone marrow biopsy to help doctors determine whether the cancer has spread internally. He’ll likely miss work Friday as well.

“When I talk to people (who have breast cancer) now, I can certainly relate, even though it’s a different kind of cancer,” said Parsons, 40, who has been with the station for 15 years. “I can relate to getting the news ‘You’ve got cancer,’ and to not knowing what the tests will find, and to having to tell family and friends.”

Soon after he was diagnosed, Parsons decided to tell listeners his news, at least partly because of his work on breast cancer fundraising. He figured it might help raise cancer awareness, and perhaps help fundraising efforts.

“Our show is very personal and we share a lot of life events,” said Parsons, whose mother died of lung cancer a few years ago. “And it seemed appropriate for me to share the news, given what we’re doing right now.”

On Wednesday, the first day of the Q Cans for a Cure event, it was already evident that Parsons’ personal battle was having an effect on fundraising, said Tim Moore, the station’s program manager.

“I know of several businesses, places Jeff has had a personal relationship with over the years, where they started up in-house collections this year because of Jeff’s situation,” Moore said.

The collection site includes an RV for the three hosts — Parsons, Meredith Manning and Lori Voornas — to live in during the three-day event. There’s also a white tent where the hosts broadcast the morning show, and there’s a Hannaford tractor-trailer where the donated cans and bottles are stored.

The event’s goal this year is 450,000 containers, or the equivalent value in containers and cash. People don’t have to bring bottles and cans; they can donate money online at WJBQ.com. Proceeds go to the Maine Cancer Foundation and the Cancer Community Center.

Manning and Voornas, who will carry on the event in Parsons’ absence, plan to be on the site until Friday afternoon, or whenever the goal is reached.

Manning said Wednesday that after years of raising money to fight breast cancer, she knows that cancer touches everyone’s life eventually. Still, she found it “bizarre” and “ironic” when Parsons was diagnosed just weeks before the Q Cans for a Cure campaign was to start.

“This is a great opportunity for us to help people fight this disease,” Manning said.

For his own fight, Parsons said he has reason to be upbeat. So far, doctors have found evidence of the cancer on the skin of his head, and they feel it has been slow to progress.

Parsons first felt irritation on his head a couple of years ago, then decided to see a doctor a few months ago when lumps surfaced on his head.

Depending on what the biopsy and scan show, Parsons said, his main treatment will likely be chemotherapy. He said he probably will find out in a week or so if the cancer is internal, and then doctors will begin planning treatment.

When he told his 4-year-old son that he probably would lose his hair because of the treatment, his son said, “Cool.”

Parsons said he would rather make light of his situation than have people around him somber all the time.

“I remember when my mom was in the hospital, she woke up and saw all of us moping around and basically told us it was stupid, what good would it do for us to all be so sad,” he said “So I’m trying to be positive, and joke about it, and keep upbeat.”

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

[email protected]