National Cancer Survivors Day 2012

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By: Rob Hawke, Actor and Author

“I didn’t expect it to be so Hollywood!” someone said to me as Princess Margaret’s National Cancer Survivors Day celebration started. In fact, it did feel a bit like tinsel town right here at ELLICSR. Stepping off the elevator and walking on to the red carpet, past a mural where paint was being artfully applied by survivors, gave a real air of excitement and expectation to the whole day.

It was remarkable seeing the many hours of planning, thought, worry and work come together in such a terrific event. Front and centre were the memories of Dr. Robert Buckman who had such a lasting and profound impact on so many of us as a physician, patient advocate, caring friend and adventurous spirit.

Dr. Bob Bell, Dr. Alex Jadad and Dr. Pam Catton shared stories with us about how Dr. Buckman was so instrumental not only in being one of the founders of ELLICSR but also infusing it with a sense of compassion and courage. Survivors who had participated in support groups lead by Dr. Buckman told anecdotes about how he offered help with passion, humour and humility.

Laura Adams did a tremendous job as our keynote speaker. She spoke with wit, charm and remarkable honesty about the challenges she faced as a cancer survivor and how that drives her to make the care in her own health care system more patient friendly. All of us that participate in events or work at ELLICSR felt a bit proud when she looked out at ELLICSR and said “We should really have a place like this in my state.”

One of the great things about National Cancer Survivors Day is that so many people who haven’t been to ELLICSR before come out to the centre. The place was packed with those affected directly by cancer, their families, medical professionals, volunteers and some people who just wanted a free piece of lemon cake. (Hey, whatever works!)

The words “stimulating” and “panel discussion” don’t often belong in the same sentence but they certainly did when Dr. Brian Goldman, Dietitian Christy Brissette, Laura Adams and Dr. Alex Jadad spoke. The barriers between presenters and audience members began to blur during the question and answer period when some tough questions were asked by survivors that many of us found moving. People shared their viewpoints on tricky stuff like “How do we get friends and family to listen to us?” and “How can we help each other more?”.

During the course of the day there were well over 100 people telling stories and sharing resources. There were cooking demonstrations by the dynamic ELLICSR Wellness Chef Geremy Capone, art demonstrations by the folks from Art For Cancer, bodies were in motion during The Art of Movement, and there was a workshop by some guy in a grey shirt called Laughing in The Face Of Cancer (me).

By the end of the day, paint had been painted, friends had been made, folks had been inspired, delicious food had been eaten, silos had been shaken, professionals had been challenged, hugs had been given, cake had been gobbled, talks broadcast, outreach had been made, a few tears had been shed and laughter had risen.

Dr. Buckman would have been proud.

Read more about the 2012 National Cancer Survivors Day celebration.