Cancer survivors: Life is beautiful

By Jordan Cohen


Life is beautiful, said cancer survivors at the 22nd annual Cancer Survivorship Day on Sunday — and they meant it.

Nearly 50 cancer patients, wearing pins showing how many years they have survived the disease, attended the event at Lincoln School sponsored by Trumbull Memorial Hospital and the American Cancer Society.

“This is a celebration of life,” said Lori Sylvester, the hospital’s vice president of outpatient services.

“Thank God we have this,” said Mary Lou Miller, 77, of Warren, whose pin showed that she has survived skin cancer for seven years. “Nothing happening to me now, hopefully,” Miller said.

Stanley Raphoon, 65, a retired engineer from Cortland, is a two-year survivor of esophageal cancer. “There’s no question modern medicine has much to do with my survival,” said Raphoon, who endured chemotherapy treatments for nearly eight months.

In a speech before fellow survivors, Raphoon said he was grateful to his caregiver for helping him maintain his sense of humor. “He helped me laugh,” Raphoon said.

Dr. Robert Brodell, a Warren dermatologist who has conducted numerous surgeries for skin-cancer victims, said being a cancer survivor means more than managing to live through the ordeal. He defined it as appreciating and enjoying life, setting and achieving goals and welcoming the support of family and friends.

“Cancer survivors see rainbows through a shower of tears,” Brodell told the group, some of whom are his patients.

Clara Nelson, 77, who has been free of breast cancer for 18 years, agreed. “It’s tough, but you keep on going because it’s life,” said the Warren resident.

The gathering had a more personal significance for the Rev. Joe Doran who has given the invocation the last few years

“I always came here to pray for you, but this year I’ve come to pray with you,” said Doran who was diagnosed with cancer last year.

Several of the survivors noted the significance of their gathering occurring at the same time as memorial services for the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“There are things much worse than having cancer,” said Diane Summerill, 65, who required a mastectomy after cancer was detected in her right breast. That was nine years ago, and she remains cancer-free.

“I thought it was the end of my life, but you still have the rest of your life to go,” said the Warren resident.

At the conclusion, each of the survivors was given a small three-cornered box containing a butterfly to be released outside the school. There were 125 boxes according to Sylvester.

“The release of the butterflies signifies the continuation of life,” Sylvester said. “That’s what this is all about.”

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