June 10 marked National Cancer Survivors Day across America. At Memorial Sloan Kettering the day was recognized with a program in the Rockefeller Research Laboratories Auditorium attended by 250 cancer survivors along with their families and friends. The event was sponsored by The Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and the Center’s Post-Treatment Resource Program (as of 2011 called the Resources for Life After Cancer Program).
Memorial Hospital Physician-in-Chief Robert E. Wittes welcomed guests by observing that they had gathered “to celebrate the wonder and ongoing challenge of being a cancer survivor… . Memorial subscribes to the widespread recognition that surviving cancer requires celebrations. But it requires more than that,” he cautioned. “It requires more than congratulations and a pat on the back.” Dr. Wittes went on to describe Memorial Sloan Kettering efforts that address the needs of survivors, including the Post-Treatment Resource Program; the Long-Term Follow-Up Program and Living Beyond Cancer, both of which provide follow-up care for survivors of childhood cancer; and the Center’s Survivorship Initiative, which focuses on survivors of common cancers of adulthood.
Linda Horowitz Freedman, one of four speakers and the wife of David Freedman, a lung cancer survivor, observed, “David has always been an inspiration to everyone he touches with his determination, positive approach, and wild sense of humor.” For Robert Kosinski, a brain tumor survivor, his post-treatment life was a process of accommodating himself to a permanent visual disability. “It took a long time to realize that this was a new way of life for me — a new normal,” Mr. Kosinski said. And Meg Berte, a survivor of Hodgkin’s disease, reported that although she experienced lung damage as a result of treatment, she was chosen for a National Tour of Hope cycling team led by Lance Armstrong. “We rode from San Diego to Washington, DC, stopping at medical centers along the way to share our message of hope,” said Ms. Berte.
Cathy Bueti, a breast cancer survivor and author of the memoir Breastless in the City: A Young Woman’s Story of Love, Loss, and Breast Cancer, was the keynote speaker. Ms. Bueti shared her experiences as a single 31-year-old woman who, seven years after the death of her husband in a car accident, was diagnosed with breast cancer and went through treatment while trying to date again.
A reception and raffle drawing followed. The Society’s Dream Team donated dinner for two, and Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Integrative Medicine Service donated 14 massages.