LAKE SUCCESS, NY – Amid the music and their memories, nearly 2,000 cancer survivors from North Shore University Hospital and LIJ Medical Center and their loved ones gathered to celebrate the 10th annual Don Monti Cancer Survivors’ Day held outside the Northwell Health Cancer Institute’s headquarters in Lake Success, NY.
The day of celebration, made possible through the generosity of the Don Monti Memorial Research Foundation, featured keynote speaker Amy Robach, best-selling author, co-anchor of ABC-TV’s Good Morning America and breast cancer survivor. In October 2013, she received some life-altering news when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
As part of the telecast for Good Morning America’s "Goes Pink Day," Ms. Robach, who was 40 at the time (the recommended age women should start getting mammograms), participated in the first-ever live television mammogram to help raise awareness about the importance of early detection. A few weeks later, she received the devastating news that she had breast cancer. She underwent a double mastectomy and subsequent treatment. She said the decision to have that on-air mammogram was "the difference between life and death... Women need to be vigilant about their health. Get annual check-ups. Mammograms might not be perfect but it’s the best tool we have for early detection. Do it for yourself and for the people who love you.”
Since the time she revealed her diagnosis during a news broadcast, Ms. Robach said that the response from women has been overwhelming. “I can’t tell you how many women have told me that they heard my story and decided to get checked.”
Another cancer survivor, Alyson Davis of Port Washington, NY, shared her story that began with a diagnosis of colon cancer and culminated with the surgery and chemo therapy that helped her become cancer free. Noting that a cancer diagnosis is a hard road that nobody wants to be on, Ms. Davis said, “Choose to play your music in the band of all the family, friends, doctors and nurses who cared for you and about you. March on to the life that awaits you!”
The Northwell Health Cancer Institute, which cared for Ms. Davis, treats approximately 16,000 new patients every year. George Raptis, MD, acting executive director of Northwell’s Cancer Institute, said that bringing comprehensive care – including clinical trials -- to community-based settings, rather than expecting patients and caregivers to drive long distances, is one of the health system’s primary goals.
“Plans are underway to open a full-service Cancer Institute in Bay Shore, Long Island, this fall as well as a facility in Westchester County (Phelps Memorial Hospital Center in Sleepy Hollow),” he said. “These and other facilities will be comprehensive — offering the same access to cutting-edge diagnostic and evaluation services, treatments, sub-specialized oncologists, clinical trials and support services.”
Recognizing the important role of clinical professionals in caring for patients, Caroline Monti Saladino, president of the Don Monti Memorial Research Foundation, presented the Cancer Institute’s annual Caregiver Award to Karen Gleason, the Cancer Institute’s senior director of Patient Care Services. “Karen has touched an incredible number of lives, with her caring and compassion,” said Mrs. Saladino. “We simply can’t calculate the enormity of her impact on so many.”
Summing up the spirit of the day, Ms. Robach said, “I leave you with the best piece of advice I received on my journey, which came from my husband. Live every day to the fullest. As my husband told me, ‘Don’t die until you die.’ What I’ve learned from all of this is that it’s not how long you live...it’s how you live.”