Cancer survivors inspiring to family members, cvaregivers

June 05, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Three people stood when the emcee asked how many people in the room had been diagnosed in the past month.

Several more stood when asked how many had been diagnosed in the past year, then others at the marks of five years, 10 years, 20 years and so on.

Finally, one woman, a survivor for 43 years, rounded out the group of men and women both young and old as the majority of attendees at the National Cancer Survivors Day celebration stood.

"I enjoy seeing all the survivors. A lot of the ones I went through treatments with passed away," said Gloria Coy of Shippensburg, Pa.


The survivors and their caregivers shared a meal, entered drawings for prizes and listened to guest speakers at the cruise-themed event at King Street United Brethren Church.

In its 13th year, the Chambersburg celebration averages about 200 people, said Shendelle Clapper, a social worker with Summit Cancer Services.

National Cancer Survivors Day, in its 19th year, is listed as the world's largest annual cancer survivors' event on its Web site, The day of celebration started in Missouri when cancer survivor Richard Bloch and his wife, Annette, organized festivities to proclaim cancer is not a death sentence, the site says.

Dr. Kevin Lorentsen, a medical oncologist, said the participants are "an inspiration to all of us who are caregivers."

He spoke about new antibodies that bind to proteins on cancer cells and restrict growth as well as other agents that essentially cut off the blood supply to cancer cells. He also discussed new treatments that have reduced the duration of radiation and have targeted it to compromised cells, sparing tissue elsewhere.

"We have many new diagnostic radiology techniques available," Lorentsen said.

Gail Grove presented the benefits of yoga and highlighted new classes soon available in Chambersburg.

"It stimulates and tones all your body systems. It helps you center yourself and focus your mind," said Grove, a certified instructor.

Yoga classes are designed to fit every age, physical condition and lifestyle, she said.

"We want them to know there are other ways for relaxation and stress reduction," Clapper said.

Jean W. Mellott of McConnellsburg, Pa., celebrating nearly four years since her cancer diagnosis, said she returned to the celebration because she likes socializing. Tumors are analogous to the bumps Mellott described in her life.

"I've had a lot of bumps, but you go over them," she said.

Cancer "causes you to look at your priorities differently. Surviving becomes your main objective," said Jackie Spahr of Shippensburg, whose husband, Preston, was one of the survivors at the event. Preston Spahr was diagnosed with prostate cancer five years ago and underwent surgery.

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