June 8, 2001

Cancer survivors, families ring successes at annual event

Featured Image

Dr. John A. Oates, left, and Dr. Dan M. Roden at the symposium last week. (photo by Paul Hightower)

Cancer survivors, families ring successes at annual event

Undaunted by rainy skies and storm warnings, more than 500 cancer survivors, family, friends and others gathered at Bicentennial Mall on Sunday to celebrate Middle Tennessee Cancer Survivors Day.

The event was spearheaded by the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center and sponsored by a coalition of cancer-related organizations and hospitals. The celebration was among more than 700 similar events across the country to commemorate the 16th National Cancer Survivors Day, held on the first Sunday of June to honor the more than 8.5 million Americans living with and beyond a cancer diagnosis.

“There are hundreds of stories here, and they all bear telling,” singer-songwriter Gary Chapman, the program’s emcee, told the survivors protected from the elements under a large white tent. “Telling your stories not only helps you, it helps everybody else. You’ve helped me today. I’m sure there are days when you woke up and said, ‘I don’t want to do this. I can’t do this.’ Then you did it anyway. Doing something you don’t think you can do, that’s called courage.

“I’m honored and inspired by what you’ve done.”

Carnival games and refreshments, a visit by the Nashville Kats mascot “Wild Fang,” and presentation of the second annual Jerry Thompson Spirit of Survivorship Award highlighted the event.

Award recipient Brenda Hasty, who was diagnosed with breast cancer four and a half years ago, entertained the crowd with a mini-fashion show of the wacky outfits she used to wear when she received her chemotherapy and radiation treatments at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center. She had high praises for Dr. David Johnson, deputy director of Vanderbilt-Ingram, who was her oncologist, and the staff at Vanderbilt-Ingram for being “a safe harbor.”

The award was created last year in memory of the late Tennessean columnist Jerry Thompson, who candidly shared his 12-year experience with cancer with readers of his column “Thompson’s Station.” Recipients of the award are honored for their efforts to use their own experience with cancer to help others, through such activities as advocacy, support of survivors and their families, or improving public awareness of cancer and its prevention and early detection.

Jo Ann Fenters, Hasty’s mother and a bladder cancer survivor, nominated Hasty for the award. She cited among Hasty’s accomplishments: lobbying efforts with the Tennessee Breast Cancer Coalition; volunteering for the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital Miracle Network Telethon; participation in the Robertson County Relay for Life; speaking to community groups about the importance of early detection; and serving as a spokesperson for Camp Bluebird, a local camp for cancer survivors.

She also noted Hasty’s songwriting talents, which she has used to create songs of survival and encouragement, including “Bluebird,” a theme song for the camp of the same name, and “Something Good.”

“She is a walking, talking, working, singing billboard for cancer survival,” Fenters wrote. “You need only to meet her once to know there is hope.”

After the award presentation, survivors took turns using a cordless microphone to announce their names, their hometown and how many years they have survived cancer. Some came from as far away as Bowling Green, Ky., and Chattanooga, Tenn., to share in the celebration. Length of survival ranged from a few months to longer than 30 years.

In addition to Vanderbilt-Ingram, sponsors included Baptist Hospital, Sarah Cannon Cancer Center, St. Thomas Hospital, the American Cancer Society, Candlelighters, the After Breast Cancer Program of the Cool Springs YMCA, Gilda’s Club Nashville, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, T.J. Martell Foundation, Meharry Medical College, Matthew Walker Healthcare Center, Minnie Pearl Cancer Foundation, National Black Leadership Initiative on Cancer, Oncology Nursing Society-Middle Tennessee Chapter, Susan G. Komen Foundation, The Tennessean, the Tennessee Breast Cancer Coalition and the Yul Brynner Head and Neck Cancer Foundation.