LAKE SUCCESS, NY – Amid the music and their memories, about 2,000 cancer survivors from North Shore University Hospital and LIJ Medical Center and their loved ones gathered under a tent to celebrate the eighth annual Cancer Survivors Day held outside the North Shore-LIJ Cancer Institute’s Monter Cancer Center.
Ed Sweeney, of Bayside, Queens, was on hand to share his story of survival, with support from his family. Mr. Sweeney described his personal journey that began with a diagnosis of colon cancer and the surgery and medication therapy that helped him become cancer free. Noting that many of his relatives were also cancer survivors, he said triumphantly, “But we are a family of survivors. And me, I’m a survivor. It’s true…the diagnosis was like a punch in the stomach. But I’m here.”
The event’s keynote speaker was Jane Brody, best-selling author and journalist, health and fitness advocate and breast cancer survivor. In 1999, Ms. Brody was diagnosed with breast cancer and treated for the disease.
“My immediate reaction was ‘At least I don’t have a fatal disease,’” she said. “My knowledge of breast cancer and cure rates told me that I had a very high chance of coming through this with flying colors.”
Now 73 and eagerly looking forward to travelling through Alaska with her four grandsons, Ms. Brody urged her appreciative audience to live each day to the fullest. “I can’t stress enough the importance of hope,” she said. “It’s not about the diagnosis. It’s about how you approach it. What really counts is what you do to make your life full.”
Summing up the spirit of the day, Ms.Brody said, “To me, breast cancer was a speed bump, not a road block. Stay positive.”
Among other speakers, North Shore-LIJ’s newly elected chairman, Mark Claster, spoke of the health system’s investment of more than $175 million to open and expand Cancer Institute treatment centers throughout the metropolitan area, including a $45 million expansion at the Monter Cancer Center that will nearly double its size to 80,000 square feet.
Noting that the North Shore-LIJ Cancer Institute treats about 16,000 new patients every year, Michael Dowling, the health system’s president and chief executive officer, said the overarching goal is to bring comprehensive care – including clinical trials -- to community-based settings, rather than expecting patients and caregivers to drive long distances.
Recognizing the important role of clinical professionals in caring for patients, Mr. Dowling presented the Cancer Institute’s annual Caregiver Award to Aine Donohue, a nurse navigator at the Cancer Institute’s Center for Head and Neck Oncology. “Aine has devoted her life to helping our patients navigate the rough waters of this disease,” he said. “Whether it’s getting questions answered, helping to make an appointment, following up with a phone call, her care and concern for our patients is unparalleled.”
To view a video of Cancer Survivors’ Day: Click Here