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Celebrating Cancer Heroes will recognize survivors at event in Somers

 Nov. 6, 2019 |  Sarah Heinonen

SOMERS – Six area cancer survivors will be honored at Celebrating Cancer Heroes, an event that benefits Survivor Journeys, an organization that provides support for cancer survivors and awareness of cancer survivorship.

The individuals being recognized are Luke Bradley of South Hadley, Liz Wilson Greer of Springfield, Candy Oyler of Southwick, Heidi Huhn-Partain of Suffield, CT., Megan Rothschild of Northampton and Chris Thibault of Springfield.

 “These heroes have inspired their community and others as they persevered through the challenges of their diagnosis with a brave and determined spirit. Many of our heroes have volunteered in the community or inspired others to volunteer,” the organization stated.

More than 60 people nominated their heroes. The criteria for a hero is someone who has “gone through their cancer struggles acts as a beacon to people who are still struggling,” said Jay Burton, the founder and president of Survivor Journeys.

The Nov. 21 event begins at 6 p.m. and will be a social fundraising evening at Monticello, located at 732 Hall Hill Rd., in Somers, CT. The mansion was built by S. Prestley Blake, co-founder of the Friendly’s restaurant company. It is a replica of the eighteenth century home of Thomas Jefferson by the same name. Chez Josef will be catering the business casual evening.

Rich Tettemer, an anchor from WWLP-TV 22 News, will be the emcee for the evening and retired Western Mass News anchor Dave Madsen will be a guest speaker.

Tickets are $85 per person and $25 for individuals 18 and under. A limited number of tables of 10 are available for $750. Tickets can be purchased at or by calling 276-6100. Survivor Journeys is hoping to raise $25,000 from the night. Sponsors of the celebration include Johnson Memorial Medical Center in Stafford Springs, Saint Francis Medical Center in Hartford, and Trinity Health of New England, as well as WWLP-TV 22/CW.

Survivor Journeys is a non-profit organization founded in March 2015. Burton said people are cancer survivors the moment they’re diagnosed, “because you go into survival mode.” He defines cancer survivorship as living before, during and after cancer treatment.

Survivor Journeys offers free access to more than 10,000 mentors to assist and support cancer patients with emotional, psychological and practical needs after their diagnosis. These trained cancer survivors have helped people from as far away as Arizona, Burton said.

There are free support groups for breast cancer, blood cancer, head and neck cancer, non-specified cancer and a caregiver group. The groups are located as far south as Enfield, CT., and as far north as Holyoke.

The organization also provides an animal therapy program and “Cancer Survivorship 101,” an annual workshop, “designed to educate survivors, caregivers, loved ones – about the factors that play a role before, during and after cancer treatment.”

Burton, who is a primary care doctor in Enfield, CT., feels so strongly about cancer survivor care because he, himself, is a survivor of acute myeloid leukemia. In 2010, he had a stem cell transplant to treat the disease. Because of this, he is in a position to see both sides of the problem.

“Our hospitals haven’t seen this as a priority,” Burton said. He said patients daily lives and support don’t get addressed when they go to see their oncologist. He noted that this problem is not unique to New England, but is nationwide.

 Burton related to Reminder Publishing a conversation he had had with a doctor in New York City. He had asked the doctor about how people got to his office. He said that patients who are sick have to stand out in the elements for a bus or climb stairs to use the subway. The doctor had never considered it, Burton said.

Burton said there needs to be a stronger focus on psychosocial support for patients and their caregivers.

“I know the limitations of our medical system,” said Burton, “but it doesn't mean we don't strive to make it better.”

Read the article in The Reminder.

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