Columbia celebrates National Cancer Survivors Day on Saturday

Wednesday, June 18, 2008 | 4:37 p.m. CDT; updated 5:31 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

COLUMBIA — Cancer survivors will unite with family and friends this Saturday to celebrate National Cancer Survivors Day.

Although the official National Cancer Survivors Day is the first Sunday in June, Columbia celebrates the day at the end of the month. Laura Neal, the coordinator of patient and family services at Ellis Fischel Cancer Center, said the Cancer Survivors Foundation made the change to avoid conflicting with other events in early June, such as graduations.

Neal said the group is expecting a large turnout this year. In 2007, at the first annual celebration, they had about 400 people attend; this year she is expecting 500.

Fischel said that there will also be more games, food and prizes than last year.

Neal said a main purpose of the event is to celebrate the improved care of cancer survivors.

“We want to celebrate their journey and those who have supported their journey like their friends and family,” Neal said. “We want to raise awareness to what they will face down the road after their treatment.”

The Ellis Fischel Cancer Center is sponsoring the event, along with many donations from residents and businesses throughout the community.

Paul Dale, chief of the Division of Surgical Oncology at Ellis Fischel, said that surviving cancer is becoming more common and people aren’t as scared of cancer as they used to be.

“We are improving the survival of cancer patients and we are going in the right direction when we have these survivors come together celebrating life,” Dale said.

Today, there are 12 million cancer survivors in the United States.

“It is important to get the word out that if you have cancer it is not a death sentence,” Dale said. “The stigma of cancer is going down, and events like this help.”

Activities at National Cancer Survivors Day are free to everyone. Neal said the event will include something for the whole family: a bounce house, hot-air balloon rides, sack races, educational booths, door prizes, food and live music. Every cancer survivor who attends will receive a gift bag filled with information and other items such as gift certificates.

“The event is to bring awareness, celebrate life and have fun,” Neal said.

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