Shore Health System Honors Cancer Survivors

On Sunday, June 1, Shore Regional Cancer Center hosted a National Cancer Survivors Day celebration at the Elks Lodge in Easton. The event had record-breaking attendance with over 90 cancer survivors, who spent the afternoon with the friends, family and healthcare providers whose support helped them navigate the many phases of their cancer experiences. 

The theme of the event – Red, White and You – commemorated the spirit of determination with which people move through a cancer diagnosis. According to the National Cancer Survivors Day Foundation, a cancer survivor is anyone living with a history of cancer from the moment of diagnosis through the remainder of life. There are an estimated 10 million cancer survivors in the US thanks to major advances in cancer prevention, early detection and treatment.

Oncologist David Halverson, MD, spoke to the group about the science of survivorship. “It is exciting to see how many new treatments for cancer have become available in the last few years,” commented Dr. Halverson. “Patients are living longer and longer because of the improvements in diagnosis, treatment and follow up care that keeps people healthy.” 

Dr. Halverson explained that many of the advances in cancer treatment have come about because of the ability to provide more individualized care. He explained, “Improvements in science have unraveled the genetic causes of cancer, the mechanisms behind different types of cancer and how they harm patients. We can now get to the root of each person’s cancer so that we can practice a more personalized kind of medicine.”

Optimistic about the future, Dr. Halverson said, “One day we will have so many cancer survivors that we will need a stadium instead of a hall for this event.”

In her keynote address, cancer survivor Marilyn Carey of Odenton spoke about the heart of survivorship. A Shore Regional Cancer Center volunteer from the Memorial Hospital Auxiliary, Carey congratulated everyone in the room for the courage they have demonstrated at every phase of their own cancer diagnoses. Explaining how she faced breast cancer, she said, “Coming to grips with what has happened to me is what makes me savor life.” 

Patty Plaskon, PhD, LCSW-C, OSW-C, social worker for Shore Regional Cancer Center and chair of the National Cancer Survivors Day celebration, introduced the Survivors Roll Call. During this moving recognition of the survivors present, guests were named along with the number of months or years since their cancer diagnosis. Some are patients still in treatment, only months after receiving a cancer diagnosis; others look back on decades of life as a cancer survivor. Each cancer survivor received a pillow handmade by Cancer Center staff, volunteers and local nurses. Each pillow made from red, white and blue fleece contained a message of encouragement. Plaskon said, “Take these pillows with you to doctor’s appointment and know that, when you are worried, we’re giving you a hug.”

After a picnic lunch catered by Elks Lodge volunteers, guests played Bingo, spun the cake wheel for chances to win homemade bake goods, and lined up for treats from the Tastee Freeze ice cream truck. Some of the children had their faces painted while DJ Steve Moody spun oldies for guests who took advantage of a perfect late spring afternoon. 

Exhibitors on hand to provide information were Shore Regional Breast Center; Shore Regional Cancer Program clinical trials; American Cancer Society; The Wellness Community of Delmarva; Women Supporting Women breast cancer support group; the health departments of Talbot and Queen Anne’s Counties; the Oncology Nursing Society of the Upper Eastern Shore; the Joanna M. Nicolay Foundation; the Red Devils; Cancer Care, Inc.; and Coping Magazine.

National Cancer Survivors Day 2008 was sponsored by Shore Health System’s Regional Cancer Program; the American Cancer Society; the Upper Eastern Shore Chapter of the Oncology Nursing Society; Bay Hematology & Oncology; Eastern Shore Oncology; and The Wellness Community of Delmarva. Other supporters and donors included George Shoener, John Merceron and Kathy Hurley;  the Easton Elks Lodge #1622; Steve Moody Disk Jockey Service; Sodexho Food Services; Easton VFW; Linens of the Week; Tilghman Volunteer Fire Department; Tastee Freeze; the staff of the Easton Fashion Bug; and a group of Talbot County students who earned service hours for their participation.