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June 5, 2013

Survivors' Day set to honor cancer patients

By Meghan McCaffery Contributing Writer
Cooperstown Crier

---- — More than 200 people attended the Cancer Survivors’ Day event put on by the Bassett Cancer Institute on Sunday at the Otesaga Resort Hotel in Cooperstown. This year is the 26th annual National Cancer Survivors’ Day and the first year the event was held at the Otesaga Resort Hotel.

“The generosity of the Otesaga is a huge reason we are able to do it,” said Susan van der Sommen, administrative director of the Bassett Cancer Institute.

The Bassett Cancer Institute serves the local community with sites in Cooperstown, Oneonta, Herkimer, Sidney and Cobleskill. For many, this day is a chance to celebrate and to be with fellow cancer survivors and the staff that provided them with care.

“It’s nice to see the patients that have successfully gone through treatment and are doing well,” said Krista Goins, a nurse at the Cancer Institute. “It’s like a happy ending.”

“It is a chance to celebrate life and to see a lot of people that I know, especially my angels,” said Sallie Harrington, a cancer survivor diagnosed with ovarian cancer. “I call my nurses who take care of me my angels.”

Harrington was first diagnosed with cancer in 2002 and has been receiving treatment on and off since then.

“I lost my husband to lung cancer in 2007,” Harrington said. “We did chemo together.”

Charlie Lustman, a musician and inspirational speaker, performed his original songs about his own struggle with cancer. Lustman founded the Musical HOPE Campaign and travels the world to spread his message of love and hope to other cancer survivors.

“The cancer patient is considered a survivor from the day of diagnosis,” Sommen said. “They’re in the process of overcoming, so today is a great opportunity to celebrate life.”

The Cancer Survivors’ Day was first celebrated in 1988 said Dr. James Leonardo, a doctor of oncology at the Cancer Institute. At that time people diagnosed had a 50 percent chance of living and now, in 2013, people have a 70 percent chance of survival, Leonardo said.

“Cancer can take away all of your physical abilities but it can’t touch your heart and it can’t touch your mind,” Dr. Leonardo said.

This event is put on annually by the doctors, nurses and support staff at the Bassett Cancer Institute.