Cancer survivors, their family and friends joined Wentworth-Douglass Hospital’s Seacoast Cancer Center staff to celebrate life during National Cancer Survivors’ Day at the hospital Wednesday evening. Over 100 people celebrated with food, prizes, music, hugs, laughter and their stories.
“I’ve come here every year since I was diagnosed with cancer,” said Jonny vonHusen, 73, of Somersworth. He relaxed next to the waterfall in the lobby of the hospital, listening to live harp music and sharing his gratitude for the celebration.
“People get to come to this event and see how many other people have this disease that you can’t see, taste or hear,” said vonHusen, a prostate cancer survivor. “You just live life to the fullest but you always have this fear that it will come back. This is great because we can relate to each other here.”
As patients tell their stories, Wentworth-Douglass Hospital staff get a chance to be with their patients outside the Cancer Center, sharing a joyful time with them.
“Seeing people getting along with their lives years after I've stopped following them is wonderfully gratifying,” said Asa Nixon, MD, a radiation oncologist at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital. "This is one of my favorite functions to attend. And, you know, even though every day is a celebration, it is nice to have this yearly event as an exclamation point.”
Lymphoma survivor June Coakley, 80, of Dover tells her story with an emphasis on the people who took care of her through her treatment, especially one of her nurses, Carol Chambers, RN.
“They are the greatest group of people I’ve ever met,” said Coakley. “When I was coming here for treatment, I thought to myself ‘do I mind coming here…no.’ And that’s probably sad, but it is true. I love it here. I just saw Carol here and she came at me with her arms out for me – she’s amazing.”
Barbara Hebert, 56, of Dover, a breast cancer survivor, made her connection with Barbara Civiello, MD, a medical oncologist at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital, and Anne Daugherty, LICSW, the Cancer Center’s Social Worker.
“We (Dr. Civiello and I) created a bond between patient and doctor where I feel comfortable and she knows what is going on in my personal life,” said Hebert. “And Anne has been there for me all along the way, every step.”
Hebert has been cancer-free for four years.
“If I had to have treatments again,” said Hebert. “I’d come here.”
Nurse Manager Alice Tansey, RN, BSN, OCN explains why the Cancer Center continues to hold this event. “It is heartwarming to see survivors after they have completed treatment with us and resumed their lives,” said Tansey. “The positive feedback from patients and their families makes what we do worthwhile.”
At the end of the evening, Social Worker Anne Daugherty reflects on the Cancer Survivors’ Day event. “What a wonderful experience to see so many survivors coming together to celebrate,” said Daugherty. “It's nice to have a chance to visit with folks feeling more relaxed and enjoying being here at the hospital without worry about a test, lab work or treatment. It was a great night!”