LAKE SUCCESS, NY – New York native Harry Belafonte, star of stage, screen and television, social activist, international humanitarian and prostate cancer survivor, was the much-anticipated keynote speaker at Saturday’s Cancer Survivors’ Day Celebration of Life, hosted by North Shore University Hospital and LIJ Medical Center at the Monter Cancer Center in Lake Success. The by-invitation-only event attracted more than 2,700 cancer survivors and family members.
Mr. Belafonte, a Kennedy Center Honoree, a National Medal of Arts recipient, past UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and author of My Song, came to North Shore-LIJ’s Cancer Survivors’ Day as an activist for prostate cancer survivors. He has spoken all over the country about his personal prostate cancer experience, so that others “may improve their cancer experience and help themselves,” he said. Mr. Belafonte told the gathering that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1996 and had a radical prostatectomy. “If you are diagnosed with prostate cancer, it’s not a death sentence,” he said. “What makes a difference is how you conduct your life.”
During the very personal account of his cancer experience, Mr. Belafonte said that he spoke with a number of his close male friends, all major names in the entertainment field, who told him that they, too, had battled prostate cancer. He emphasized that cancer is not emasculating, it happens to the most virile and macho of men, and therefore much more conversation should be taking place about testing and treating for prostate cancer, especially among African-Americans.
Mr. Belafonte has walked with heads of state, first ladies, royalty, teachers, preachers, sharecroppers and the homeless. For his entire adult life, Harlem-born Harry Belafonte has worked tirelessly in his quest to improve the conditions and circumstances of others. At the end of Mr. Belafonte’s inspiring presentation, North Shore-LIJ Chairman Richard Goldstein presented Mr. Belafonte with a special white lab coat, embroidered with his name making him an honorary member of the North Shore-LIJ faculty.
Earlier in the program, two local cancer survivors spoke eloquently about their personal battles, and how they overcame the disease. Seth Luker of Merrick spoke about how he overcame cancer twice, having survived colon and liver cancer, and Monica Melville, an oncology nurse from Queens, told of her battle with breast cancer and how important it is for her to attend support groups, learning from other survivors.
North Shore-LIJ Chair-Elect Mark Claster presented a special award of recognition to Barbara Thiem, a nurse navigator at the North Shore-LIJ Cancer Institute, for her contributions to the care of her patients.
Vincent Vinciguerra, MD, the Tita and Joseph Monti Professor of Oncology at the Hofstra-North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine, served as the master of ceremonies, asking everyone to join him in raising a glass of sparkling cider in a toast to celebrating good health. The event marked the seventh year that North Shore University Hospital and LIJ Medical Center have combined their annual Cancer Survivors’ Day celebrations.
The North Shore-LIJ Health System is one of the largest providers of inpatient and ambulatory oncology services for residents of the entire metropolitan area. Earlier this year, the North Shore-LIJ Health System announced it was dedicating more than $175 million for oncology capital investments for the North Shore-LIJ Cancer Institute that will benefit those living anywhere in the metropolitan area. The North Shore-LIJ Cancer Institute will be able to offer enhanced multidisciplinary care delivery, encompassing state-of-the-art diagnostics, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and coordinated care, adding convenient locations and quality care throughout the health system.
About North Shore-LIJ Cancer Institute: The North Shore-LIJ Cancer Institute offers inpatient services at North Shore University Hospital (NSUH), LIJ Medical Center, Cohen Children’s Medical Center, Glen Cove, Huntington, Southside, Lenox Hill, Staten Island University, Plainview, Forest Hills and Franklin hospitals. Outpatient services are available at the Monter Cancer Center in Lake Success, NY, LIJ Medical Center, Cohen Children’s Medical Center, Glen Cove, Lenox Hill and Staten Island University hospitals, and physician offices throughout Queens, Long Island, Staten Island and Manhattan. With approximately 150 physicians, the Cancer Institute is comprised of 12 centers of excellence focused on: brain tumors, breast cancer, cancer genetics, gastrointestinal oncology, gynecologic oncology, head and neck oncology, hematologic oncology, lung cancer, melanoma and rare skin cancer, supportive oncology and pain management, pediatric hematology/oncology, and prostate and genitourinary cancer. The Cancer Institute and its physicians are involved in more than 175 cancer clinical trials and have accumulated 30 years of experience in National Cancer Institute-sponsored clinical research.