Celebrating Survivorship

“You’ve got cancer…”Despite the tremendous medical advancements that have resulted in lessented mortality for many types of cancer, hearing those three words is definitely a life-altering moment. While it may be a challenge to focus on the positive, there is a lot of good news to report regarding cancer, as the number survivors continues to grow.

According to a study issued jointly by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute, the number of cancer survivors in the U.S. rose to 11.7 million in 2007. That’s a significant increase over the survivorship figures from 2001 and 1971, which were 9.8 million and 3 million, respectively.

The study, “Cancer Survivors in the United States, 2007,” also notes that:

•      7 million of those living with cancer were at least 65 years old

•      A large proportion of cancer survivors (54%) were women

•      The largest group of cancer survivors had breast cancer (22%), followed by those with prostate cancer (19%) and colorectal cancer (10%)

•      4.7 million of the survivors were diagnosed at least 10 years previously

Reasons cited for the increasing number of cancer survivors include early detection, improved diagnostic methods, more effective treatment and improved clinical follow-up after treatment. The team at the Sutter Solano Cancer Center (“SSCC”) is one of many throughout the country that focuses on providing state-of-the-art medicine and compassionate care, a combination that has proven to work wonders.

After opening its doors in 2005, SSCC didn’t waste any time in becoming Solano County’s premier cancer treatment facility, earning prestigious accreditation from the Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons just two years later. To maintain that standing, it continues to adhere to the highest standards of care, providing a wide range of cancer treatment and support services, including medical oncology, radiation therapy, community education, support groups, genetic counseling, clinical trials, a resource library, psychosocial services and nutrition support.

Kim Etcheberry, RN, SSCC’s Cancer Services Manager, notes that ongoing research has changed the approach being used to treat cancer. “We’re learning through the use of new drugs, targeted therapies and new technologies that some diagnoses of cancer can be treated more like a chronic disease, while others are curative,” she says.

Etcheberry also noted that SSCC, like other cancer centers, refers to all cancer patients as survivors from day one, since they’re surviving in many different ways during their treatment journey. She said it’s important to celebrate any survival opportunity that presents itself.

Survivor Celebrations

Two celebrations of cancer survivorship are coming up this summer, National Cancer Survivors Day “NCSD” on June 3, and the Vallejo Relay for Life on August 4. SSCC isn’t planning any formal event to commemorate NCSD, which started 25 years ago in the U.S. and is now observed throughout the world, but it will be an active participant in the local Relay for Life event.

The NCSD Foundation notes that on June 3, communities worldwide will demonstrate that life after a cancer diagnosis can be meaningful and productive through events including parades, carnivals, races, art exhibits, ball games, contests, dances and inspirational programs. In addition to celebrating life, the activities are intended to raise awareness of the issues facing cancer survivors, including more resources focusing on supporting their quality of life.

To learn more about the NCSD Foundation, visit www.ncsd.org.

The Relay for Life, produced by the American Cancer Society, also has a long history of celebrating survivorship as well as raising funds to support future cancer research. Teams of survivors, family members, community groups, businesses and other motivated individuals join together to complete a 24-hour relay race and participate in other fun and educational events. One of the most moving parts of the celebration is the Luminaria Ceremony, during which loved ones are honored or remembered as the evening gets lit up by hundreds of luminarias.

The Vallejo event has been a successful fundraiser and awareness builder for many years; in 2011, it was honored as a California Top 20 Relay. SSCC will field a relay team, sponsor the Luminaria Ceremony and the Survivor Tent, and provide lunch for the cancer survivors and caregivers in attendance. It’s a day filled with optimism and joy, and one that’s highly anticipated by the SSCC staff.

”Relay for Life is a truly inspirational event,” says Lalaine Durand, CCRP, Clinical Research Associate/Cancer Registry and captain of the 2011 SSCC relay team, which raised more than $10,000. “Team members from SSCC and around the community work together for months to create the energy and spirit that you see at the event. Not only do you learn about cancer, you meet and honor survivors and celebrate their journeys. Their strength and courage exudes all day long. I encourage anyone who’s never been to this event to try it once. It’s a lot of fun and a great experience for the whole family.”

To learn more about the August 4 Vallejo Relay for Life, which will take place at St. Patrick/St. Vincent High School, visit www.relayforlife.org. You have plenty of time to get involved by forming your own relay team and joining SSCC and other community members to honor cancer survivors and work toward adding to that number.

A Survivor’s Story

Early diagnosis proves crucial for Richmond community leader Jerrold Hatchett, 59, has been a fighter his whole life. He started in the Golden Gloves program as a child, but moved on to fight for both himself and others as a respected businessman and humanitarian. When he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, he knew he was in for the fight of his life.

Because Jerrold had annual checkups, that included prostate cancer screening, his cancer was caught in its early stage. After trying some less invasive treatments, he had his prostate removed in 2007. Unfortunately, his cancer recurred several years later. He was then introduced to the Sutter Solano Cancer Center, where he received care that exceeded his expectations from both a medical and psychological perspective.

“I had a second surgery, but this time it was followed with radiation, and I also had access to a counselor who helped me through the mental side of dealing with cancer,” Jerrold says. “The people at the cancer center were just awesome. In addition to doing their jobs, they showed me a great deal of respect and treated me like family.”

Jerrold knows quite a bit about family; he has eight children ranging from 18 to 39, and six grandchildren from two months old to 22. He’s also been part of the family at Simsmetal America since 1970, starting as a laborer and being promoted to foreman, supervisor and division manager before taking on his current responsibilities as public affairs director.

Jerrold also has a third “family”, the Richmond community. He’s well known around the city for his giving spirit and even received an award for his humanitarian acts in 2006, an honor he humbly says is unnecessary.

“Everything I do is from the heart because I really have love for my community,” he said. “I think it’s important to give back because you want to, not because you have to.”

Jerrold may look familiar to the children of Richmond because he’s Santa Claus at the city’s annual tree lighting ceremony. The 6’4” 270-pound African American also plays the Easter Bunny at Richmond’s Easter egg hunts. His less whimsical community service has included efforts to stop gun violence, improve elementary education, clean up neighborhoods, find jobs for youth and provide recreational activities for seniors.

Jerrold works with a variety of community groups, including the King Solomon Lodge, Santa Fe Neighborhood Council, Coronado Neighborhood Council, Richmond Rescue Mission, Council of Industries for Richmond, Richmond Mainstreet Program, Ed Fund, Nystrom Elementary School and Richmond Chamber of Commerce. Many people involved in those organizations participated in a prayer group during the time he was undergoing cancer treatment.

The Staff at Sutter Solano