Cancer Survivors Celebrated as All Stars
Foundation Chairman Shares Personal Story
Nearly 500 cancer survivors and their family members attended National Cancer Survivor’s Day, a record turnout for this event that NorthBay Healthcare has sponsored for the past 17 years.
The Clubhouse at Rancho Solano was the venue, and “All Star Survivors” was the theme.
Attendees were invited to enjoy a barbecue lunch of hamburgers, hot dogs and potato salad.
Following lunch, attendees heard a cancer drug and treatment update from James Long, M.D., hematologist/oncologist with the NorthBay Cancer Center, and then inspirational speeches from cancer survivors.
Several raffle prizes were awarded, including a grand prize of a $500 travel certificate donated by NorthBay Healthcare Foundation and Wendy Wasserman of Wasserman Travel in Vacaville.
Dr. Long’s brief talk focused on all the new cancer treatments available, as well as the hightech services patients may receive at the NorthBay Cancer Center, guided by an experienced and growing staff.
In the “Speaking from the Heart” section of the afternoon’s program, breast cancer survivor Margarita Lopez talked of how having a cancer diagnosis opened her eyes to what’s important in life.
“You go through this and it’s amazing; it’s like you have glasses and see things you didn’t see before. Where you used to get angry, now you don’t just bother any more.” And, in a David Letterman-like countdown, she noted several silver linings to having cancer: an alarm clock ringing at 6 a.m. is not a bother because she has another day, and a former concern about the price of auto insurance gives her license to drive a convertible.
Jim Lawrenz, president of the NorthBay Healthcare Foundation board of directors, beat throat cancer several years ago but has recently been struggling with melanoma that has advanced to his lymph nodes. “When I was receiving care from those big hospitals in San Francisco, I felt just like a number. But I just love the NorthBay Cancer Center. The staff is terrific and Dr. Long has given me reason for hope and optimism.”
Even though his melanoma has advanced, he says doctors keep offering options of new drug regimens, radiation and surgery. “Three of NorthBay’s most promising and busiest physicians spent hours with me and even worked through their lunch.
That’s compassionate care, close to home, and thank God we have them in our community.” He offered several pieces of advice to the audience. “Listen to your body and be your own healthcare advocate.
Don’t let your dermatologist freeze a suspicious mole;
insist on a biopsy. ... Keep your sense of humor, think positive, know you have the best doctors, have confidence in the treatments, and know all is in God’s hands.”
The day’s keynote speaker was Jamie Whitmore, a professional triathlete who was in her early 30s when she was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on her sciatic nerve, and then another tumor that required doctors to remove her lower hamstring and gluteus muscle, which resulted in her losing the use of her lower left leg. Recovery was extremely difficult, but she was determined to compete again.
Not only did she get back out on a mountain bike, but she completed a 100-mile bike race in 2012, and is training to take part in the 2016 Paraolympics.
The 2014 National Cancer Survivors Day will be held on Sunday, June 1.