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Cancer survivors share their strength

June 04, 2000|By TARA REILLY

When Quincy Kohler of Hagerstown was diagnosed with breast cancer six years ago, she needed encouragement to cope with the potentially deadly disease.

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She found that strength in the National Cancer Survivors Day Celebration.

This year's celebration was held Sunday at the Family Recreation Park on National Pike. About 800 people, including 272 cancer survivors, turned out. Sponsors included the Washington County Health System Inc. and the John R. Marsh Cancer Center.

Washington County took part in the national event in 1992 with about 20 survivors attending to help provide hope to those battling cancer and to comfort other survivors. Since then, it has grown by more than 250 survivors. Last year, Washington County's celebration was ranked fourth in the country by the magazine Coping.

"It's a day to forget about all the bad things that come with cancer and remember all the things we have to be thankful for," Kohler said. "It's important for newly diagnosed people to see the survivors."

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Kohler has been attending the celebration since her 1994 diagnosis.

The gathering began at around 11:30 a.m. with a picnic, music from The Holders, games and photo shoots. Survivors wore badges telling how many years each has lived after being diagnosed with cancer.

"It's a celebration of life and to educate the public and people that it's just not a terminal illness that no one survives," Dawn Johns, chairwoman of the event said.

Organizers also said the event provides the opportunity for doctors and patients to reunite.

"You really get to know the patients," said Frederic Kass, medical director for the John R. Marsh Cancer Center. "This is a time to spend with them in a non-clinical situation. You get to follow up and see people you haven't seen in years."

Rev. J. Clark Hayes of Hagerstown said the celebration is a powerful tool in battling cancer. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer six years ago and has been coming to the event for two years.

"This lets me know that I'm not alone and that other people have it," Hayes said. "Together we can strengthen each other. It's an opportunity to talk to other folks here for support. You find out that cancer isn't as frightening as you thought it was."

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