National Cancer Survivors’ Day is an annual, worldwide celebration of life where cancer survivors unite to show the world what life after cancer looks like. On Sunday, June 4, Methodist Medical Center of Oak Ridge honored these cancer survivors, their family and friends by hosting Survivor Sundae, an ice cream social celebrating National Cancer Survivors’ Day.
More than 100 cancer survivors, caregivers and the community gathered to enjoy the free event, make ice cream sundaes, connect with other survivors and cancer support organizations, and listen to music by the Mt. LeConte Jug Band, which was sponsored by the Cooperative Agreement of Labor and Management (CALM).
“Sometimes people have a negative idea of what life after cancer looks like,” said Kim Maes, manager of Methodist’s Cancer Support Services and event organizer. “But the reality is that more people are living longer and having better quality lives after cancer than ever before. Survivors are showing us that life after cancer can be meaningful, exciting and filled with joy.”
The day was indeed filled with joy, with music and friends, with door prizes, giveaways and a fun photo booth. Guests learned about skin cancer prevention at the Sun Safety booth, young attendees enjoyed the Kid’s Zone, while survivors and cancer patients had the opportunity to learn about community resources such as the Cancer Support Community and American Cancer Society as well as services offered by Methodist such as lymphedema therapy, Thompson Cancer Survival Center and the Wound Treatment Center.
The Survivor Sundae festivities included people of all ages, from all walks of life and with many different associations with this disease that touches everyone in some way.
“Five percent of the U.S. population is made up of cancer survivors and that number is going to keep rising as we continue to find better treatments,” said oncologist/hematologist Dr. Michael Thompson, as he addressed the crowd. “Not every journey has a happy ending, but every morning I look forward to going to work because I get to spend every day with you ‘five percenters’ from whom I draw great inspiration – from your courage, your trust and your sweetness. I am not just a doctor. I am your fellow traveler. My career, and my life, are infinitely better for being part of your journey.
Maes concluded, “Every year, this event shows cancer survivors that people in the community care and want to celebrate with them as they come through such a difficult journey.”
The community’s support is vital to cancer patients as we see each day through the Hospitality Houses at Methodist. The Houses provide free, temporary lodging to cancer patients and their families when they must travel for treatment at Methodist. The Houses are supported through the charitable donations of the community, which include monetary gifts, as well as donations of food, household supplies and volunteer time. The community has also come together to raise money for life-saving and treatment-enhancing technology like the cone beam CT used for radiation treatments and the specialized coils needed for breast MRI.
Survivor Sundae was not about raising money. It was about raising awareness that the odds are getting better, that lives are being saved, that each and every day there is new hope and that we are all a part of that.