Time to celebrate lives of cancer survivors
June 18, 2010
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- Brooke Army Medical Center and Wilford Hall Medical Center Cancer Care hosted their Fourth Annual National Cancer Survivors Day at the BAMC Medical Mall June 12, recognizing and supporting the lives of cancer survivors.
A myriad of activities included entertainment by the U.S. Medical Command Band and jazz band SnapDragon from New Braunfels; games for the Family; health education booths and dinner catered by Rudy's "Country Store" and Bar-B-Q for more than 1,200 patients, Family members and friends.
"This celebration is all for you," said Col. George Peoples, chair of the BAMC/WHMC Cancer committee and chief of Surgical Oncology, who gave the opening and welcoming remarks.
Brig. Gen. Joseph Caravalho Jr., commander of BAMC and Southern Regional Medical Command (Provisional), gave words of encouragement and support to the survivors, followed by Col. Mary Garr, 502nd Mission Support Group/Garrison commander, who is also a cancer survivor.
Garr reminded everyone of the importance of early detection, prevention and maintaining a positive spirit through the difficult times of their lives.
"This is a wonderful event to recognize and celebrate the long and arduous journey that our cancer survivors had to endure during their challenging times of recovery," said Susan Ferrise, BAMC/WHMC Cancer Care Committee and BAMC Surgical Oncology, nurse case manager.
"The event brings them together to enjoy and celebrate life together."
Last year 1,000 attended. This year the event was celebrated by more than 1,200 participants.
"I think the number increases every year because we have more cancer survivors every year. Early diagnosis of cancer and the many treatment options available provides better long-term outcomes. Everyone who attends the event has a great time," Ferrise said.
Patricia Babin, BAMC/ WHMC Cancer Care Committee and chief of the BAMC Tumor Registry Service agreed with Ferrise.
"Our patient population is unique in that they are not afraid to share their experiences with one another and look forward to this event every year. The fact that this event is growing says something about the quality of care that BAMC and WHMC provide for their patients," Babin said.
Elaine Mederos, a cancer survivor diagnosed and treated at BAMC, is now in her sixth year of remission and continues to stay connected with the doctors and staff at BAMC. This is her fourth year attending the event.
"I loved my doctors and staff who have treated me here at BAMC. I had never had any surgery until I found out about my cancer and my doctors took care of me with kindness and compassion in their hearts.
"In fact, I am undergoing a 15-year study in the Oncology clinic about the type of chemotherapy I received when I was diagnosed with cancer," Mederos said.
Peggy Smarkola, a retired registered nurse, was diagnosed with five different types of cancer since 1989. All but one was detected and treated at BAMC. She is now cancer free and has been for five years.
"I have a very special bond with BAMC. It is a comfort knowing BAMC doctors and staff are always here for us and this celebration brings everyone together. Early detection is the key to success," Smarkola said.
Cancer survivor Joseph Austin and his wife, Karen, joined in the celebration for the first time. He has been in remission for five years.
"We have enjoyed the celebration, and the health education fair has given me the opportunity to take information home to inform and educate my family and friends of early detection," he said.
National Cancer Survivor Day Foundation defines a "survivor" as anyone living with a history of cancer - from the moment of diagnosis through the remainder of life.