It was a beautiful, crisp Fall afternoon, the just-planted stuardia tree taking root in the courtyard, when we welcomed about 100 survivors and supporters on November 6 for the Jane Pepper Women’s Cancer Symposium.
The day was designed as an opportunity for survivors and their family and friends to convene to discuss issues surrounding cancers that affect women and to celebrate survivorship.
Fox Chase Cancer Center CEO Michael Seiden offered opening remarks and dedicated the day to board member Jane Pepper for her years of service and commitment to supporting our research and treatment efforts.
Dr. Mary Daly, chair of the Department of Clinical Genetics, moderated a panel discussion featuring ovarian cancer survivor Emily Beck, and breast cancer survivors Cathy Bueti and Kerri Conners, followed by a reception and tour of the Women’s Cancer Center.
We were confident that these young women’s stories would inspire the audience, because they have used their challenges to encourage other women to pursue their dreams. But we were still overcome with how honest and engaging they were.
For Emily Beck, 38, a three-year survivor of Stage IIIA ovarian cancer, this was the first time she shared her story publicly. A child advocate attorney, Emily spoke about volunteering with First Descents (www.firstdescents.org), a non-profit that provides free outdoor adventure experiences for young adult cancer patients and survivors. She showed slides of her experiences and how participants surpass their expectations about what they can accomplish physically. We encourage you to visit Emily’s blog, See Emily Play, as she shares her ongoing journey as a cancer survivor.
Cathy Bueti, a nine-year survivor, stressed that writing and being creative has helped her manage the fear and anxiety of cancer. Cathy told the heart breaking story of how she became a widow at age 25, and several years later, was diagnosed with breast cancer. In May 2009, she published the moving memoir Breastless in the City chronicling, with good humor, her experience as a young widow dating through cancer treatment. She also maintains a blog and web site, cathybueti.com. Her husband of seven years, who was in the audience, received a warm ovation.
Kerri Conner postponed her bridal shower to be with us! Kerri was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer at age 33, and described how different her experience has been from that of her mother, who had breast cancer at age 41 without the support that exists today. Kerri published My Mommy Has Breast Cancer but She is OK! this past February, inspired by her 4 year-old daughter. Kerri chaired Philadelphia’s Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in 2009 to celebrate the 10th year survivorship anniversary of her mother, with whom she operates a CPA firm.
All three women acknowledged that the experience of cancer doesn’t end with formal treatment and that issues of cancer survivorship are real. At the same time, they demonstrated how vibrant life continues to be with the support of family and friends, the pursuit of physical and creative outlets, and the faith that we can thrive.
We plan to host more programs like this at the Center that promote education, inspiration and support. We’d love to hear from those of you who attended, and we welcome your suggestions for future programming.
Be Well, Bob