1,000 cancer survivors celebrate life at picnic

John R. Marsh Cancer Center hosts annual celebration at Red Men grounds

June 06, 2011|By JULIE E. GREENE |
  • About 1,000 cancer survivors and their families attended "A Celebration of Life" at the Improved Order of Red Men's grounds near Williamsport on Sunday.
By Colleen McGrath/Staff Photographer

WILLIAMSPORT — There were doctors and patients, about 1,000 patients.

But there were no stethoscopes or white lab coats.

Instead, there were smiles, laughter, hugs, fried chicken and giveaways as approximately 1,000 cancer survivors attended the John R. Marsh Cancer Center’s Celebration of Life picnic at The Improved Order of Red Men’s grounds off Lappans Road near Williamsport on Sunday.

“I think it’s empowering for the patients,” said Dr. Dan Cornell, director of radiation oncology. “They see other survivors and they know they’re not alone, and that there’s a whole team behind them as well. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.”

Instead of examining patients, Cornell was handing out slices of chocolate cake with white icing. Normally in the parking lot directing traffic, a bad knee had Cornell dishing out the sweets.

“There’s nothing like watching cake fly,” Cornell said.

In addition to the crowd in the pavilion, hundreds of survivors sat at tables under three large white tents while music played during the sunny afternoon.

The cancer center, part of Meritus Health, holds the picnic on National Cancer Survivors Day.

“It’s just a great time to remember what we’re doing in the fight against cancer,” said Susan Lopp, the Marsh Center’s administrative director.

“I come every year,” said Betty Wollard, an 11-year survivor of ovarian cancer.

She came to the celebration with her husband, Raymond, 86, a two-year survivor of prostate cancer.

“I like being around all the people,” said Betty Wollard, 84, of Hagerstown.

“It’s like a celebration of life,” said Dennis Kretzer, 63, of Williamsport. Kretzer is a seven-year survivor of prostate cancer and a five-year survivor of tonsil cancer.

“Everyone who is here is glad to be alive. Thanks to the good doctors we have (at the Marsh Center),” Kretzer said.

“We talk to each other and comfort each other,” said George Smith, 72, of Hagerstown.

Smith is a nine-year survivor of colon cancer and a five-year survivor of prostate cancer.

Smith attended the event with several family members, including daughter Patricia Passarell, 53, a Williamsport resident who is a nine-year survivor of breast cancer.

Bud Leatherman, 73, of Hagerstown, was wearing a four-year survivor pin for his battle with prostate cancer. Leatherman also is a 15-year survivor of skin cancer, he said.

“Just lucky to be alive,” Leatherman said.

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