Celebrating survivors: Rogel Cancer Center event marks 25th anniversary

June 5, 2019  //  FOUND IN: Michigan Medicine News,

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Each year, the Rogel Cancer Center’s outreach team hosts a Survivors Day celebration on the first Sunday in June.

It serves as a chance for any and every one affected by cancer to come together and celebrate lives, milestones and connections.

This year’s celebration was held Sunday, June 2 at the Morris Lawrence Building on the Washtenaw Community College campus.

“This event is so important because it brings survivors and caregivers together and gives them the opportunity to converse and share their stories with others and strengthen that common bond,” said Martha Laatsch, outreach program manager for the Rogel Cancer Center who helped organize the event.

It was attended by more than 300 people, who shared laughs, tears and memories while learning about important community resources available to them.

The celebration also brought in guest speaker Chris Ayers, author of The Daily Zoo: Keeping the Doctor at Bay with a Drawing a Day, to tell a rapt audience of his experience with treatment for acute myeloid leukemia.

Chris described his diagnosis meeting, his treatments and how small things could make a difference in his day.

“Maria, my daily housekeeper [at the hospital where I was treated], would greet me each week day with a big smile and loud boisterous ‘Hello Christopher! Is it going to be a good day today?’ But on the weekends, when Maria was off, other members of the staff came by my room. They didn’t smile like Maria, they didn’t know my name like Maria, they didn’t have nearly the same energy as Maria. I realized then how dependent I had become on that small dose of positivity from her each morning.”

After his discussion, one audience member said it will stick with them in the years ahead: “This was my first time here, but I will definitely be back. The presenter gave an amazing talk. He is very talented and brave and I was so inspired by his story.”

In addition to the keynote talk, a number of organizations were present as community exhibitors, connecting cancer patients, survivors and families to a much-needed support system.

A can’t-miss opportunity

For some, Survivors Day is a can’t-miss chance to reconnect with the cancer community.

“This event is worth making the effort to attend,” said Jennie Cox. “I tell everybody about it!”

The Cox family — Jennie, her husband Tim and his sister Debbie Corbeau — has been attending Survivors Day for the past 15 years. Their family has been deeply affected by cancer, including the loss of a sister to breast cancer and having multiple other family members diagnosed.

“One of the hardest things… is when you’re going through treatment and you have all this attention — doctors, nurses and caregivers looking after you. But once you’re finally cured, you’re on your own,” said Corbeau. “Through days like this, you realize you aren’t on your own and there are people out there who can, and want, to help. That’s why it’s so important.”

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