Event Spotlights Cancer Survivors
Story by Maria Gallegos, BAMC, Public Affairs
Published July 19, 2012
Photo 1 Ė by Maria Gallegos
A Wicked Witch of the West played by Yolanda Leblond, BAMC staff, talks with Judy Creller, second year cancer survivor during the 6th Annual National Cancer Survivor Day at the Cowboys Dancehall in San Antonio, June 23. Health booths were displayed for cancer survivors and their guests to educate and promote early detection and prevention.
Photo 2 - by Maria Gallegos
A cancer survivor, Judy Thomas, was diagnosed with lung cancer five years ago and now going through her second round of chemotherapy at SAMMC. "To me, it's not about losing my hair, itís about breathing and staying alive," she said.
"We are here because we see and talk to so many other people who are going through the same thing, you don't feel like you are the only one," added her husband, Don. "This is a great event to share similar stories with new people."
Photo 3 - by Kelly Schaefer
A recent prostate cancer survivor, retired Air Force Sgt. Epi Suarez married his girlfriend of five years, Jo Ann Raney at the event. "Leave it in the Lordís hand. Along with prayer, love and support from family, friends and great doctors, you can achieve anything," said Suarez.
Photo 4 - by Maria Gallegos
Linda Hightower, a third-year cancer survivor, thanked her husband, Marquis, for his devotion and compassion he has given her throughout the challenging times of treatment and recovery. "My husband was amazing," she said. "I found out I had cancer on December 2008 during an emergency visit at SAMMC, on my wedding anniversary. I went in because I had flu like symptoms and I was not feeling well. I had no idea I was going to receive this bad news," she said. "I am so thankful for my husband who has supported me and loved me through the most difficult time of my life. God never gave up on me and neither did my husband."
"Thank you, honey. You will always be my hero."
Hollywood's biggest movie celebrities were among the guests to honor the "real" stars at a red carpet event in San Antonio.
In reality, the Hollywood celebrities were San Antonio Military Medical Centerís staff who played the role of movie stars and the "real" stars were a group of cancer survivors who were celebrated during the 6th Annual National Cancer Survivors Day June 23 at the Cowboys Dancehall.
More than 1,300 friends, family members and cancer survivors walked on the red carpet to attend this yearís themed event: Lights, Camera, and Action.
Local Tejano recording artist Patsy Torres and singer Wanda Trent Phillips provided the live performances at the event.
"Thank you all for coming to support this event; this day is all about you," said Col. (Dr.) George Peoples, director and principal investigator for the Cancer Vaccine Development Program and chair of the SAMMC cancer committee, who gave opening and closing remarks.
"Today's event is bigger and better with no exception. It's all about Hollywood, you might run into a Roman soldier, Marilyn Monroe and Fair Lady milling through the crowd, seeking autographs from the real 'stars'-- our survivors," he said. "Life is a gift, make it count."
The celebration was hosted by Brooke Army Medical Center and 59th Medical Wing in collaboration with cancer survivors treated at SAMMC and Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center, formerly known as BAMC and Wilford Hall Medical Center.
The facility was moved from SAMMC last year to accommodate the increasing number of survivors.
Leslie Mouton, a KSAT-12 TV anchor, emceed the event and Col. Noel Cardenas, BAMC deputy commander for administration, gave the welcoming remarks to the guests.
"Not only do we have a great staff taking care of our patients, we were recently notified by the Commission on Cancer surveyor that our cancer patients can be assured they are receiving top quality care, among the best in the country, and that SAMMC is comparable to 2 to 3 percent of other academic cancer centers, such as Memorial Sloan-Kettering, Beth Israel and MD Anderson," he said.
"This is an exciting day to recognize and celebrate the long and difficult journey that you (cancer survivors) have endured during your challenging period of recovery," continued Cardenas. "This celebration is all about you."
Mouton and Cardenas both emphasized the importance of early detection, prevention, and education to help beat the disease, and encouraged everyone to take advantage of the health booths displayed at the event.
"This (event) is something we do purely to celebrate our patients," said Susan Ferrise, surgical oncology nurse case manager and SAMMC cancer committee team.
"We want our survivors and their families to have a good time, network with other survivors and know how much we appreciate them."
"This is a great ceremony to show others that there is life after a cancer diagnosis," she added.
Shortly following the opening ceremony, a recent prostate cancer survivor, retired Air Force Sgt. Epi Suarez married his girlfriend of five years, Jo Ann Raney.
"I just thought it would be appropriate to celebrate our marriage at the cancer survivor event," explained Suarez.
"Susan Ferrise and other cancer committees made this special day an extraordinary day for us."
"After my surgery (in April), I felt the weight of the world was off my shoulders. The good Lord gave me a second chance at life," he said.
Suarez encourages all men over 50 years to have their prostate checked, especially for men who have had a father or brother diagnosed with the disease.
According to the National Center Survivor website, National Cancer Survivor Day Foundation defines a "survivor" as anyone living with a history of cancer-from the moment of diagnosis through the remainder of life.