“At Memorial Sloan Kettering, cancer care does not end when someone finishes treatment,” said the institution’s President and CEO Craig B. Thompson, welcoming hundreds of patients, families, and friends to a program and reception marking National Cancer Survivors Day on June 10 at Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Manhattan campus. Although traditionally observed on the first Sunday in June, cancer survivors are recognized by Memorial Sloan Kettering at celebrations throughout the month.
“We are committed to being a lifelong resource for everyone who has faced or is facing cancer and are proud to be the leader of survivorship-focused research and care,” Dr. Thompson said. “We take seriously our role as an international model of how to handle survivorship, and our responsibility to all of you.”
Actor Rob Lowe delivered the evening’s keynote speech. His grandmother and mother died of breast cancer, and his father was treated for stage IV non-Hodgkin lymphoma at age 50 and, said Mr. Lowe, would soon celebrate his 75th birthday.
“In my life I have learned that even the most painful chapters contain a golden gift,” he said. “A family touched by cancer has an opportunity to re-form as a closer, stronger, more loving unit. Gratitude and recognition of life's values are infused into our hearts in a way otherwise impossible.”
“Because today we know that a cancer diagnosis is not the end, but it is the beginning of a journey that has the power to be transformative, enlightening, and heroic. I'm always amazed and humbled by the many survivors I meet who tell me, ‘I'm not the same person I was.’ And they mean it as a good thing. [They] have said ‘No’ to fear and were rewarded with a priceless gift: a new perspective on life's values.”
Cancer Survivors Speak
Among the cancer survivors who addressed the gathering was Susan Moser, who was diagnosed with a germ cell tumor one month after her birth. Despite experiencing a number of late effects of her treatment, Ms. Moser received her BA degree from Cornell University and a law degree from New York University School of Law. She currently practices at a prominent Manhattan firm.
“As anyone who has been touched by cancer knows and understands, the experience does not end with the final treatment,” said Ms. Moser. “The survivor experience challenges everyone in a different way. For some it is the physical and mental challenge of coping with being ill and wondering what will happen next. For others it is the emotional and mental challenge of learning to embrace their past, present, and future as a cancer survivor.”
Memorial Sloan Kettering also held local survivorship celebrations for patients treated at its ambulatory care facilities in Westchester, New Jersey, and Long Island.
Steve Danatos, a former US Marine, lawyer, and certified public accountant, spoke at the event for patients treated at Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Basking Ridge, New Jersey, facility. Diagnosed in 2009 with tongue cancer, Mr. Danatos expressed gratitude for what he called “the Memorial Sloan Kettering ecosystem — the coordinated, integrated, and seamless healthcare service platform that delivers to each patient the highest-quality, focused, and compassionate care that their individual needs require.”
“From Day One, everyone worked diligently to cure me — not merely to see me, or treat me,” Mr. Danatos said. “My experience convinces me that no institution serves its patients better.”