PUNTA GORDA — The Celtic Ray Pub in Punta Gorda celebrated “Halfway to St. Patrick’s Day” Saturday and raised nearly $5,000 for former Punta Gorda police officer Catherine Stewart, who was diagnosed with multiple myeloma cancer earlier this year.

“As nervous as we were, being our first halfway to St. Patrick’s Day, it couldn’t have gone any better,” said Max Doyle, who owns the pub with his father, Kevin. “The vibe in the air was great. Everyone helped out. We had volunteers help with the raffles and donations and the dunk tank.”

Doyle said he’d estimate around 600 people showed up. Staff were still counting the money raised on Monday, but Doyle said it was around $4,900. Even when it started to rain, the bands just unplugged their instruments, went under the tent, and continued the show.

“It went perfect, to be honest,” Doyle said. “Overall the vibe, it felt like St. Patrick’s Day, but for the locals.”

Stewart, reached by the phone while undergoing an eight-hour chemo treatment this week, said she’s been overwhelmed by the community support since her diagnosis.

“First of all, Kevin and Max are absolutely incredible,” she said of the Doyles. “The fact that they offered to do this was very humbling. I’m totally in awe that they actually did this for me… I get very overwhelmed with the support we have with such an amazing community of people in Charlotte County. You can only say thank you so many times, and it’s never enough.”

Stewart’s mother used to work at the pub, and she’s known Kevin for more than 25 years, she said. Being from Scotland herself, she loves the food at the pub and said the bands and dunk tank Saturday were incredible. She also wanted to thank her friend Christine Goracke, who helped organize the 50/50 raffle.

“You know when you have that one person, she’s been my backbone,” Stewart said. “She’s been incredible and taken me everywhere. When things like this happen and you have good friends, it’s incredible.”

Before working at the Punta Gorda Police Department, Stewart had a 30-year career at the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office. She never had any health issues until earlier this year, when she thought she had fractured a rib or hurt her back.

“I think that is very typical of multiple myeloma patients,” she said. “They find it by accident at Stage 1, or typically at Stage 3, which is the highest level for this cancer, people start complaining about their back. I went to Fawcett and found out I was completely covered in tumors.”

At Stage 3, patients’ vertebrae start to fracture because of the cancer in plasma cells that accumulate in bone marrow, crowding out the healthy blood cells. Stewart recently had a stem cell transplant, but the procedure did not put her into remission like she and her doctors had hoped for.

For now, she’s on chemotherapy and plans to start taking part in clinical trials for any experimental treatments she might qualify for.

“All I can do is educate myself as much as possible and try to keep a positive attitude and do what I can do on my part to extend my life,” she said.


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