Cancer Survivors Celebrate Life and Liberty

Patients, survivors and their families joined medical staff in a day of fun and entertainment sponsored by the John Theurer Cancer Center.
Patients, survivors, loved ones and members of the medical community gathered at MetLife Stadium for the event.
Patients, survivors, loved ones and members of the medical community gathered at MetLife Stadium for the event.
Spirits were high this past Sunday, Sept. 10, as patients with cancer, survivors and their families, as well as medical staff, gathered at the Celebrating Life and Liberty event at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey to revel in another sunshine-filled day on this planet. Compared to last year, when 4,000 guests shivered in a chill September rain and huddled under overhangs, this year’s weather was, you could say, just what the doctor ordered.

This event, now in its ninth year, is sponsored by the John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center. It celebrates survivorship, while also generating inspiration and support to those in the cancer community who are still in treatment or recovery.

‪"When you're in the fight [against cancer], you feel so alone,” said Judith Mills, an attendee whose mother passed away from breast cancer this year. “But here, when you see so many people, it gives you a feeling of comfort.”

The Human Connection

Making human connections is what the day is all about, says Andre Goy, M.D., MS, chairman and director of the John Theurer Cancer Center and chief of the Division of Lymphoma. “We hope that it energizes patients to share their stories, to support each other and to engage in the fight. Part of the fight is being human, being social and talking about your stories. The positive energy is palpable. And there is a lot of hugging.”

Teens waved at cameras that projected them onto the jumbotron while children bounced through inflatable obstacle courses. Others acquired temporary airbrush tattoos and free sweatshirts, and posed with a living Statue of Liberty. Some Giants fans had their dreams come true as they ran across the stadium field kicking footballs through the goalposts.

“It’s a way for people to let go of their worries and concerns for a few hours and be surrounded by others who have survived, and to see that there is hope,” said Ihor S. Sawczuk, M.D., FACS, president of Hackensack University Medical Center.

Trisha Coote, a breast cancer and ovarian cancer survivor, proudly posed for a picture with her goddaughter Shoshauna Wallace.

“I survived ovarian cancer,” she exclaimed. “I had it in 2015, and I’m still here!”

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