MERIDEN — Cancer patients fighting through radiation and chemotherapy treatments met survivors who traversed those same battles decades ago at MidState Medical Center’s 14th annual Cancer Survivor Day.
“Really the day is total recognition of the fact that they have overcome the disease and we also remember those who have succumbed to the disease. It’s one day that we put aside all of our scrubs and our shirts and ties in order to spend time with the people we treated and their caregivers,” said Kristoffer Popovitch, central region director for Hartford Healthcare Cancer Institute.
The event, held at Hubbard Park on Sunday, allowed patients at MidState to meet their doctors, nurses and support staff outside of the bustling clinic, as well as patients who came to share their stories of overcoming the disease. At least 125 patients attended with around 50 volunteers from the hospital.
“It’s an important event for all survivors, I think. It creates awareness, it gives those people that may be feeling alone, it gives them a sense of community. That they’re not by themselves, they’re not alone in their fight,” said Jennifer Hatcher, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010. “It’s just an honor, honestly, to come back every year and celebrate the life that you’re given.”
When her mother was diagnosed with cancer, Hatcher encouraged her to come to the survivor day to help her overcome feelings of isolation.
“It was so empowering for her,” she said. “It was amazing for her to see that she was not alone; that there are other people that are facing the same struggles and fighting the same battles.
“It’s an honor to be a survivor,” Hatcher continued. “It’s rough when you go through it, but when you come out in the end and you come to an event like this and you see all the wonderful people that are here — it’s something that I wouldn’t change in my life.”
Dawn Plumb, manager of medical oncology at MidState, said it’s just as rewarding for all those who care for cancer patients as well. With the stream of patients, they sometimes miss out on the personal interactions with those they spend months treating, so many jump at the chance to spend an afternoon sharing their homemade cupcakes with them.
“They tell us about happy things and they tell us about sad things,” she said. “It’s really nice to be able to connect with them outside of those four walls, where we can really take a moment to kind of kick back and have those personal connections.”
“When you see the patients walk in here and celebrate that they’re cancer free, it makes it all worth it,” Popovitch said. “We also have a moment in here where we ask people how long they’ve been a survivor. So you start off with saying who here was diagnosed in the last year and people will stand and there’s a round of applause and we go all the way up the ladder. It’s probably one of the best moments, because you’re seeing people sometimes survive 30, 40 or 50 years; it’s incredible.”