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Cancer survivors from across the region gathered on Sunday, June 5, to celebrate their journeys with an art exhibit and a balloon release at the Alabama Cruise Terminal.
Sponsored by the USA Mitchell Cancer Institute, the event was held in conjunction with the annual National Cancer Survivors Day. More than 200 cancer survivors, their families and friends were in attendance.
“Today is a day of hope,” said Dr. Michael A. Finan, director of the Mitchell Cancer Institute. “We are joining groups of survivors around the world today in celebrating life and your cancer journeys.”
National Cancer Survivors Day was established to show the world that life after a cancer diagnosis can be fruitful, rewarding and inspiring. This is the fourth Survivors Day event for Mitchell Cancer Institute. The lavender balloons represented the color of general cancer awareness.
Finan led the crowd in a moment of silence. “We’d like to honor those brave men, women and children who lost their fight against cancer,” he said.
Three cancer survivors shared their personal stories: Hattie Alexander, principal of Council Traditional School; Glen Mutchnick, a science teacher at Clark-Shaw Magnet School; and Pooja Revanna, a Biomedical Sciences student at the University of South Alabama.
Alexander said she was diagnosed with breast cancer as a young mother with a 6-week-old baby. The night before her surgery, a nurse visited her hospital room and offered to pray with her. “She was an angel,” Alexander recalled.
Mutchnick asked all caregivers in the crowd to stand. “We kept fighting,” he said, “because of my wife, Sherry, and other caregivers. You were our chauffeur, our psychologist, our friend and confidant.”
Revanna, who intends to study pediatric oncology, was only 14 and spending the summer at an aunt’s house when she was diagnosed with leukemia. Her parents flew back from a visit to India. “My mom couldn’t even talk; she was crying,” Revanna said. “I thought, ‘Yeah, they finally figured out what was wrong. I don’t think I knew that leukemia was cancer.”
After the event, MCI medical oncologist Dr. Thomas Butler said he was honored to attend the celebration of cancer survivors. “My patients do more for me than I do for them,” he said.
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