FREDERICK, Md. (WDVM) — With the pandemic still limiting larger events and gatherings, a local cancer institute in Frederick, Maryland found a special way to celebrate their survivors.
The James M. Stockman Cancer Institute at Frederick Health celebrated cancer survivors from all walks of life with a drive-through celebration on National Cancer Survivors Day. Debbie Fuller is a nurse navigator at the James M. Stockman Cancer Institute and also organized this year’s celebration. In previous years, the celebration was an all-day affair that brought cancer survivors together, whether they were currently battling the disease or had finished treatment.
“This is a huge celebration for our community, for the country for the world to celebrate our survivors, no matter if it’s day one walking into the center or thirty years later,” Fuller said. “It’s an inspiration not only to us [the staff] but to our patients.”
The celebration was not tailored to survivors of any specific type of cancer but an overall celebration of life for those survivors and their families. Jodi Gerber was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 and as an employee of Frederick Health, she has been able to participate in the yearly celebration alongside other survivors, patients, and her fellow staff members.
“I think it’s wonderful. People need to be recognized for what they’ve gone through and you’re supporting people who have gone through cancer, showing you care,” Gerber said. “You’re recognizing them, the ones that are still going through the treatment. They need hope, they need fun, they need, fun things to do and that’s what the cancer survivorship day is about.”
Cancer survivors were treated to gift bags, sunflowers, cupcakes, and a warm welcome from staff members like Patricia Rice, who has been a nurse practitioner at the James M. Stockman Cancer Institute since 1996. Rice was able to greet some of her patients who attended the drive-through celebration.
“It’s really a special day for all of us we work so hard to improve their life and they come in terrified. But then, when they leave, we celebrate,” Rice said. “We celebrate every patient who finishes therapy and it’s just very special.”
The James M. Stockton Cancer Institute was unable to hold its annual celebration last year due to the pandemic but is looking forward to its 29th celebration next year in 2022.