Released: May 31, 2012

Cancer Survivors Mark 'Their' Day
By David Cline

It is a day of celebration, and one of contemplation. It might be celebrated with a party, acknowledged with a smile, or remembered as a milestone.

The 25th annual National Cancer Survivor’s Day is June 3, 2012.

Yvonne Bushyhead, a former consumer peer reviewer with the Department of Defense (DoD) Breast Cancer Research Program, said she will mark the day both in solitude and with company.

“On June 3 I plan to drive alone to the top of a mountain on the Blue Ridge Parkway, watch the sunrise and meditate for half a day,” Yvonne said. “Then I will join some family members for a celebration and feast for life and especially for other cancer survivors.”

As a Native American, Yvonne is particularly concerned about the health and habits of those in her tribe. She has participated in a camp for cancer survivors that offers nutrition, exercise, and other helpful topics for those dealing with the disease. She plans to always help others, Yvonne said, though she is filled with compassion at the memory of many members of her tribe whose lives were claimed by cancer.

Like Yvonne, Kent Leipold also will begin the day outside. Kent, a peer reviewer for the Prostate Cancer Research Program, will take his dog Teddy – also a cancer survivor – to a sunrise church service, then to the park for some exercise and enjoying the beauty of the day.

“Looking back over the last four years I never would have thought I would be here today. I am truly blessed,” Kent said. “When I learned of my diagnosis I had total fear. Every male in my family had died from prostate cancer and the diagnosis created a paralysis for the first three days. I prayed if I survived I could help other travelers that walk this path.”

Kent credited his dog for encouraging him to exercise every day, and to appreciate all that he has been given.

Patricia Nolan, another former BCRP peer reviewer, has seen cancer both as a patient and as a caregiver – her husband died of cancer. While frustrated at the rising costs of therapeutics, Patricia said she has grown and learned from her experiences.

“When I was first diagnosed cancer consumed my life, not just my body. It was all I could think about, talk about and read about. I was scared, angry and lost in a situation I knew very little about and couldn’t control. This all-consuming thing took me to a very dark place. I realized then that I could choose to abdicate my life to cancer or start living it. I chose my family.”

Patricia said she does not have anything special planned for June 3, and will spend the day getting ready for her job as a kindergarten teacher.

Many cities across the country will host events honoring cancer survivors on June 3, from parades and speeches to health fairs and workshops. No matter how their day is commemorated, Kent said his experiences of the past years will help him remember and realize how fortunate he is.

“Each cancer survivor is a true hero,” Kent said. “I have seen that shine in men and women alike.”