Recent Event Brings Together Cancer Survivors, Patients, Caregivers and Medical Staff

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Survivors and patients with cancer had the opportunity to celebrate alongside their friends, family and medical staff at a recent event in New Jersey.

When James Georgia was taking care of his father who had lymphoma in the 1980s, he swore that he would never undergo standard cancer treatment. But 25 years later, things changed when he was diagnosed with stage 3 Hodgkin lymphoma.

“Of course, never say never. Luckily the treatment made some major advances between the time my father was diagnosed and when I was diagnosed,” Georgia said at the John Theurer Cancer Center’s 2016 Life and Liberty event, which happened last weekend in New Jersey.

Georgia went through chemotherapy from October to January, and has been in remission ever since. He, along with other patients, survivors, caregivers and medical staff, packed into the MetLife Stadium on Oct. 9 to celebrate their journeys and share their stories.

“One of the secrets of the event is that it’s an opportunity to bring patients together in a social situation where they don’t feel like they’re outsiders because they have the big ‘C’ on their back,” Andre Goy, M.D., chief science officer and director of research and innovation of the the John Theurer Cancer Center said.

The event started eight years ago with just a couple hundred survivors on Ellis Island and grew into a huge celebration, bringing together about 3,000 patients, survivors, caregivers, friends, family members and medical staff. The event had vendors, food and entertainment, including a performance by the Midtown Men, a musical group starring original cast members of the hit Broadway show “Jersey Boys.”

For Midtown Men member Christian Hoff, who won a Tony Award in 2006 for his role as Tommy DeVito, supporting events like these is personal. His wife is a breast cancer survivor and his 5-year-old daughter, Ella, has been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).

“There’s so many good things going on in the medical world and in the tech world, that hopefully we’re going to make this cancer thing go away ASAP,” he said. “And one beauty of what I do, which is entertain, is that we can utilize those opportunities for good and lighten and elevate a topic. It can be about hope and encouragement and bringing light to a heavy situation.”

Despite the dreary, rainy weather, light and hope were abundant at the Life and Liberty event.

“It’s a great thing, actually, because we invite a lot of caregivers and staff members. This gives them an opportunity to mingle with patients in a different kind of relationship — just a human relationship.” Goy said. “It’s really exciting to see this.”