Planning ELLICSR's National Cancer Survivors Day Celebration: Interview with Myann Marks-Aitken

Written By Alaina Cyr

​On Monday, June 10, ELLICSR will be hosting its annual National Cancer Survivors Day celebration. I sat down with Myann Marks-Aitken, the event planner,  to talk about the event and what goes into planning the day.


Alaina Cyr: Where do you start when it comes to planning an event like this?

Myann Marks-Aitken: First we decide on a theme. In reviewing the workshop evaluations from last year’s event, we got a lot of feedback that attendees wanted more of a focus on spirituality, so this year we went with Celebrating Your Life Through Mind, Body, and Soul. We wanted to take a comprehensive approach to spirituality, not simply focus on religion.

Image of Judy during National Cancer Survivors Day

AC: Where does planning go from there?

MM: Next, we find a date that works for the ELLICSR team, our community partners, and survivors that coincides with National Cancer Survivors Day (which happens on the first Sunday of June). Sometimes there are other conferences happening around the same time that we need to consider. This year we settled on Monday, June 10th.

With the date confirmed, we look for a keynote speaker, someone with a background in research that relates to the theme and cancer survivorship. We also decide on a topic for a panel discussion and ask experts from the Princess Margaret and within the community to participate. The last part of the program is arranging the workshops. We try to get a variety of activities, like cooking, laughing, art, exercise, and relaxation.

Then we promote, promote, promote, and ask for donations for our goodie bags. When the event is over, we evaluate what we did and use what we learn for planning next year’s event.

AC: Wow, that sounds like a lot of work! How early do you start planning and how many people are involved?

MM: This year we started advertising the event in March, but planning officially started back in November 2012. For me, I start thinking about the next event almost as soon as we’re finished.

This year we had 10 people involved with planning, including 2 survivors. It is the biggest event ELLICSR puts on each year, and we want to make sure we do it well. It takes a lot of work! 

AC: What are you looking forward to most for this year’s event?

Image of Rob Hawke

MM: Last year’s event was bittersweet; we celebrated the life of Dr. Robert Buckman after losing him in October 2011. He was a great member of the ELLICSR team, and a huge support to visitors of ELLICSR.

This year we’ve got a panel discussion on Faith in the Face of Adversity, led by Gilda’s Club Greater Toronto, which is something we’ve never done before. We are also offering new programming like Qi Gong and seated massage. The keynote speaker, Karen Mustian, exercise physiologist, will be talking about exercising during treatment, something we don’t hear about often. I’m interested in hearing the research behind it.

AC: Well it sounds like this is going to be a great event! I’m looking forward to attending. Thank you for all your work planning the event, and for sitting down with me today.

MM: Thank you.

Follow the #ncsdTO hashtag on Twitter or visit the ELLICSR Facebook page for more details and announcements.

Celebrate the 4th annual National Cancer Survivors Day with us on Monday, June 10th. It is free to register. Workshops are available on a first come first serve basis so get here early!