Every year hundreds of hospitals, cancer centers and communities throughout the US and across the world join in a Celebration of Life for National Cancer Survivors Day®. This year the official 25th Annual National Cancer Survivors Day was recognized on June 3rd.
In years past, this event was “survivorship-centric,” focusing only on people who had completed their active treatment. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Surviving a diagnosis of and treatment for cancer should be celebrated – as much and as often as possible. However, previous Survivors Day celebrations didn’t seem to leave room for all the brave souls in the midst of treatment, struggling to maintain their strength and hold their lives together. Happily, the National Cancer Survivors Day Foundation (NCSDF) is facing this issue as part of a national initiative. This year, participants were asked to “unite in a symbolic event to show the world that life after a cancer diagnosis can be meaningful and productive.” Indeed!
Plus, the NCSDF clearly redefined the definition of a cancer survivor to help the world work towards a much needed shift in mindset. The NCSDF defines a “survivor” as anyone living with a history of cancer – from the moment of diagnosis through the rest of their life.
While most communities and institutions celebrated for a day, the Joan Karnell Cancer Center (JKCC) at Pennsylvania Hospital went to extraordinary lengths to proudly showcase and celebrate their large, active, vibrant and productive cancer survivor population, from the newly diagnosed to those decades past treatment.
For the past ten years at PAH, the JKCC celebrated National Cancer Survivors Day at a Celebration of Life event attended by patients, caregivers, physicians, nurses, staff, family and friends. This year, the celebration shifted to a weeklong series of events from June 11th to 15th, which focused on cancer patients currently undergoing treatment in the inpatient and outpatient areas of the hospital.
This shift in the event’s focus at PAH is consistent with a national initiative to improve the care of cancer patients as they transition from active treatment to survivorship. Resources, education, support and empowerment – of survivors and their loved ones – were provided throughout the week. Long-term cancer survivors were also in attendance to support survivors currently undergoing treatment and to share stories of living with, through and beyond a diagnosis of cancer.
JKCC celebrated cancer survivorship all the week long by hosting different events and offering patient support services including healthy nutrition demonstrations, Shiatsu massage, pet therapy, art therapy and educational sessions. To help foster survivorship spirit and increase awareness, all Pennsylvania Hospital staff and employees were asked wear a different color each day of the week, which corresponded with a color related to a specific type of cancer.
These efforts aren’t confined only to one week at Pennsylvania Hospital, however, This spring, the hospital’s wide array of excellent patient and caregiver Support Services and events were lauded by surveyors when, the JKCC received a full three year accreditation with commendation from the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer.
The future of cancer care, as many facilities have recently realized, also includes taking into consideration a patient’s overall health status as well as emotional and psychological well being. Physicians and staff at the JKCC recognized the importance of this aspect of care many years ago and, as a result, have an extensive support program that includes three oncology-specific social workers, two oncology-specific nutritionists, two oncology-trained psychologists, an art therapist, music therapist, massage therapist, chaplain, nurse navigator, and a palliative care nurse practitioner. The breadth of this program was, in particular, noted by the American College of Surgeons surveyor who praised the innovative nature of the services, even including dedicated space for support group meetings, art therapy, and psychosocial support. “In a word, outstanding!”