LAKE SUCCESS, NY —
For the approximately 2,000 who turned out for the Northwell Health Cancer Institute's Don Monti Cancer Survivors' Day celebration at Monter Cancer Center on Saturday (June 10), it was a moment to claim victory in their personal struggle with the disease.
Award-winning actor and best-selling author Hill Harper told the crowd – nearly all of them survivors, their families and the health care professionals who treated them – his own diagnosis. What began as a problem swallowing was quickly diagnosed as thyroid cancer. Surgery caught the disease at an early stage and Mr. Harper has been an advocate ever since.
"Be a survivor – and a thriver," said Mr. Harper, who implored the audience to continue their courageous fight.
The event was endowed by the Don Monti Memorial Research Foundation, which was founded by Tita and Joseph Monti in the wake of personal tragedy. Their 16-year-old son, Don, died at North Shore University Hospital (NSUH) of myeloblastic leukemia in June 1972. Within days of his passing, the Foundation was dedicated to the mission of finding a cure for cancer. It has since raised and contributed tens of millions of dollars toward cancer research, education, fellowship and patient care.
"Remember my mother's words," said Caroline Monti Saladino, Don's sister and the current president of the Don Monti Memorial Research Foundation, which has supported Northwell Health's cancer services for more than four decades. "That is every patient's eyes she would see my brother and in every survivor's eyes she would see his life extended. Each person under this tent is a part of our village, our family, and proof that the Don Monti Memorial Research Foundation is alive and well."
Patients from 10 Northwell hospitals – North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Medical Center in New Hyde Park, LIJ Forest Hills, Glen Cove Hospital, Huntington Hospital, Lenox Hill Hospital, Plainview Hospital, Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, Staten Island University Hospital and LIJ Valley Stream – gathered for the health system's largest community outreach event, now in its 11th year.
Breast cancer survivors Donna Bacon and twin sister, Dia Bacon, spoke about the loss of their mother to breast cancer at age 37 and their own personal battles against the disease after they were both diagnosed within two years of each other – Donna in 2006 at the age 33 and Dia two years later in 2008.
"When we think of cancer, we think of people getting sick and thin," said Ms. Dia Bacon, of Jamaica, Queens. "I want people to see that there is life after cancer."
"Truly, this is the best day of the year for all the faculty and staff at the Cancer Institute," said George Raptis, MD, senior vice president of Northwell Health Cancer Services. "We celebrate with you."
Dr. Raptis, acting executive director of the Northwell Health Cancer Institute, said the program treats approximately 16,000 new patients every year. He noted the importance of continued research and hoped the size of the crowd inside the tent doubles at future gatherings.
"We all know that most people diagnosed with cancer have many family members, loved ones and friends by their side for help and support," said Michael J. Dowling, president and CEO of Northwell Health. "For those of you who are here today, we extend our thanks and appreciation for everything you do."
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About Northwell Health
Northwell Health is New York State's largest health care provider and private employer, with 22 hospitals and over 550 outpatient facilities. We care for more than two million people annually in the metro New York area and beyond, thanks to philanthropic support from our communities. Our 62,000 employees – 15,000+ nurses and about 3,900 physicians, including more than 2,800 members of Northwell Health Physician Partners – are working to change health care for the better. We're making breakthroughs in medicine at the Feinstein Institute. We're training the next generation of medical professionals at the visionary Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine and the School of Graduate Nursing and Physician Assistant Studies. And we offer health insurance through CareConnect. For information on our more than 100 medical specialties, visit Northwell.edu.