Celebrating Life

On June 5, thousands of the estimated 12 million cancer survivors in the country came together to celebrate National Cancer Survivors Day. Across the country they took part in all kinds of events: They planted trees, they flash danced in malls, celebrated Christmas early or had picnics at their cancer center with doctors and nurses in attendance. I was honored to speak at one of these events in Freehold, New Jeresy, where some 200 survivors, family members and hospital staff gathered for lunch at Centrastate Medical Center. As I stood in front of the crowd doing my one-woman show "One Mutant Cell," it hit me that the cancer survivors in New Jersey are the same as those in Texas or California or Florida or Washington, all places I have spoken in the past few years. We have the same scars from the same procedures and have endured the same treatments. We also have the same hopes for a future free of cancer. This coming together of survivors also serves to help the newly diagnosed see those who have been through cancer and are moving on with their lives, an important reminder for all of us. There is life after treatment. I was impressed with the celebration at Centrastate for a number of reasons. Physicians were present as were their nurses and radiation technicians. There were lots of hugs and casual chatting that I like to see between docs and patients. The physician who introduced me, Dr. Edward Soffen, a radiation oncologist at Centrastate, began by saying he had been asked repeatedly if he was going to sing again this year. So, he gave in and did a grand rendition of Day-O, encouraging the crowd to join in on the chorus, "Daylight come and me wan' go home."He was having fun and so were his patients. It's the kind of connection I love to see between doctors and their patients but don't very often.