Laughter reverberated through the Professional Building Conference Room at St. Catherine Hospital Sunday morning, as local cancer survivors and their loves ones gathered for the 32nd annual National Cancer Survivors Day Breakfast. They shared pancakes, swapped stories, and celebrated life.
National Cancer Survivors Day® is marked worldwide on June 2 to raise awareness to the challenges cancer survivors face and remind everyone that life after cancer is something worth celebrating. Local survivors, their families, nurses, doctors, and staff from the Cancer Resource Centre and Community Healthcare System facilities--St. Catherine Hospital, Community Hospital and Hartsfield Village-- celebrated together at this year’s event.
Guests received goodie bags, t-shirts, and took fun photos with accessories provided at the photo booth.
For Anne Herbert, a stage four breast cancer survivor from Hammond, the opportunity to meet with others who shared her struggles meant a great deal.
"We celebrate each other's journeys and each other's success," Herbert said. "I think that helps each one of us to feel good about what we've gone through.”
In keeping with the theme of this year’s National Cancer Survivors Day, “Relax, and Enjoy Life,” festivities kicked off with a restorative chair yoga demonstration, led by Susan Hynek, Wellness Coach and Outreach Sales Coordinator at Community Healthcare System's Hartsfield Village in Munster.
Afterward, breakfast was served while Leo Correa, St. Catherine Hospital CEO, and Hermatologist-Oncologist Amer Sidani MD addressed the crowd.
"We're excited to have this event here, and we hope to continue it and grow it over the years across Community Healthcare System," he said. "It's wonderful for us to honor our patients and their fight against this disease, and give them an opportunity to meet other survivors and talk about their journey. It's an opportunity to recognize their loved ones, their caretakers, physicians, providers, their nurses, and everyone who has helped them along the way. It gives all of us a chance to celebrate their successes."
Sidani stopped to speak with guests at each table and told them, “For me, one of the most rewarding aspects about being an oncologist is building a relationship with my patients in their journey.”
In recent years, the location of the cancer survivors’ event has alternated between Community Hospital, Munster, and St. Catherine Hospital, East Chicago, giving patients an opportunity to hear about the healthcare system’s scope of cancer services.
During this year’s event, Correa announced that the Oncology Center program at St. Catherine Hospital is undergoing expansion. The hospital took the national spotlight in 2005 when it became the first hospital in Indiana and Chicagoland to acquire CyberKnife®, advanced technology used for pinpoint precision treatment of inoperable tumors. Now, the Cancer Center is expanding to house 12 to 14 infusion therapy rooms and three to four exam rooms, with a central intake area for infusion services, provider services, CyberKnife® and radiation therapy. The center will offer American Cancer Society, nutrition support and therapy services on an inpatient and outpatient basis.
“A new area of the Cancer Center that I’m particularly excited about is access for our patients to a Healing Garden,” Correa added.
Sidani said that he is confident the expanded services will mean a great deal to those in his care. "Our patients have been really appreciatitive that they don't have to travel far to get state-of-the-art- oncology care," he said.
“We’ve long been known for our advanced, compassionate cancer care here at St. Catherine Hospital and through our affiliation with Community Healthcare System,” Correa added. “Now we're at the point where we're able to step up our level of care, and I'm very excited to be a part of it."
As part of St. Catherine Hospital’s oncology services leadership team, Alanna Hunter-Parks, Nurse Manager of Inpatient Medical-Surgical Oncology and the Outpatient Infusion Oncology Center, was very proud to have staff join in Sunday’s celebration.
"It means a lot to us. It's important to show how much we care, and celebrate life beyond treatment of this disease."
“Cancer survivors live full, productive lives,” said Anthony Andello, director of the Cancer Resource Centre. “This special day celebrates them and their accomplishments.”
To close out the morning event, survivors gathered around a table laden with art supplies. Each took turns applying acrylic paint and glitter with colorful swirls, shapes, and words to a shared canvas. The work of art will be put on display to honor their spirit and creative energy during future celebrations by St. Catherine Hospital and the Cancer Resource Centre.
The breast cancer survivor Dal Sacramento from Highland was deeply moved by the gesture. A friend and fellow survivor texted her earlier in the week and invited her to come, but she almost didn’t make it.
"I'm so glad I came,” Sacramento said. "I thoroughly enjoyed it. I've had a wonderful time. I'm just so inspired by all the ladies and all the wonderful things that this hospital has offered here."
To learn more about the hospitals of Community Healthcare System and quality cancer care close to home, visit www.COMHS.org.
If you would like to attend future cancer survivor celebrations or learn more about the support programs of the Community Cancer Research Foundation's Cancer Resource Centre, 926 Ridge Rd., Munster, call 219-836-3349 or visit www.cancerresourcecentre.com.