HUNTINGTON – A scene filled with grass skirts, leis, Hawaiian print shirts and even a few coconut bras took over the parking lot of HIMG Sunday afternoon as HIMG and St. Mary’s Regional Cancer Center hosted their annual celebration of National Cancer Survivors Day.
About 300 people, including roughly 100 cancer survivors, participated in the theme Manaolana Ikaika Ola, or “Hope Courage Survival,” said Dixie Ellixson, a registered nurse and office manager at HIMG who coordinated the event.
Wrapped up in the celebration was the chance for cancer survivors, many still patients, to have the chance to mingle and build better connections with the doctors and nurses who treat them, Ellixson said.
“Things are a little more serious when you’re in the office, obviously, because we’re dealing with their conditions at that time,” Ellixson said. “When they come here, we put all that away and to the side, and it’s just fun. We want them to have a good, fun day.”
This year marks the 30th annual National Cancer Survivors Day, and the day is meant to be a time for inspiration, love and support for those recently diagnosed and their families and loved ones as well as a time for outreach in their communities, according to the National Cancer Survivors Day website.
The support and good times were evident for Susan Bauer of Proctorville, Ohio, who attended the event with her father, Wayne Bauer.
Susan Bauer, 59, was diagnosed with cancer in her esophagus and tongue in June 2011, and she said she expects to undergo treatment for the rest of her life.
She said her faith and attitude have been what’s helped her along the past six years.
“When I got my diagnosis, I said, ‘My life’s in your hands,’ and I turned it over to (God),” Bauer said. “I haven’t given it a second thought. I take each day, and I live life to the fullest.”
Bauer said she didn’t go to the survivor’s day celebration the first two years after her diagnosis, but she said she had so much fun when she finally did go that she hasn’t missed one in the past four years.
Just as it took her two years to get to the cancer survivor’s event, Bauer said it also took her a couple of years to get a positive diagnosis of her cancer, and she encouraged other people to stay the course when they know something is wrong in their bodies.
“Persistence. You know your body better than anybody,” she said. “It took me years to get my diagnosis. They couldn’t find it, but I kept saying they didn’t see anything wrong. If you think something is wrong, stick with it, even if you have to go somewhere else. Do whatever it takes.”