When I think of the word cancer, “celebration” is not the next word that immediately comes to mind. But, last Sunday, that’s exactly what cancer survivors at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center did.
Cancer Survivors’ Day is an annual event that falls on the first Sunday in June. It’s a date recognized around the country as a day to honor the 11 million cancer survivors living today and their caregivers.
In my opinion, any kind of yearly event has the potential to become stale. Not this one. In fact, I experienced just the opposite with more and more people attending our celebration each year with stories of strength, courage and hope filling a huge space where sunlight pours in through floor-to-ceiling windows in the Kimmel Cancer Center’s Weinberg Building.
In fact, it was fun. Cancer survivors took part in a fashion show, playfully walking down a “cat walk” to music, showing off new clothes and renewed spirits.
One of our social workers “emceed” the fashion show, describing not only what each survivor was wearing but a tiny slice of their cancer story. There were cheers and laughter as survivors triumphantly held the stage in the very building they had come to so many times for treatment. There were tributes to dedicated physicians, nurses, family members and to faith. It was moving, emotional and inspiring to watch. I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed with emotion knowing I had the privilege to be one tiny part of the Kimmel Cancer Center -- a part that allows me to tell the stories of our patients, our scientists, our nurses and donors. These are incredible people – young, old and some even famous, but each one amazing.
Our program featured guest speaker and survivor Damon Harris, three-time Grammy Award winner and member of the sixties musical sensation The Temptations. Watch Damon’s Cancer Survivors’ Day presentation. Damon then treated the audience to a stirring rendition of “Go the Distance.” Everyone was on their feet. I haven’t stopped thinking about that moment since it happened.
Here’s to another year of survivorship – heroes one and all.
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