In recognition of National Cancer Survivor Month, on June 7, more than 100 cancer survivors from 30 states gathered together at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) Chicago for its 31st annual Celebrate Life® event. The celebration was part of the comprehensive cancer care network’s week-long celebration of over 1,500 five-year survivors representing 47 states across the country. Similar celebrations like the one that took place in Chicago were also held at CTCA® hospitals in Atlanta, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Tulsa. 

By 2040, it is estimated that there will be more than 26 million cancer survivors in the United States1. As medical research and treatment options continue to advance, more people are living longer than ever as cancer survivors. Survivorship is the new frontier in cancer care, and hospitals like CTCA Chicago offer an integrative care approach to help patients achieve a high quality of life. 

Celebrate Life is an annual event that brings together both cancer survivors and caregivers for a day of empowerment, hope and celebration. Survivors stand united to support one another, celebrate the moments they’ve gained, and encourage those currently navigating their own cancer journeys. 

At the hospital campus in Zion, Ill., the event started as the first of seven coach buses, filled with jubilant celebrants, caregivers and loved ones, pulled up in front of the hospital. As the doors opened, eager passengers stepped onto the red carpet lined with hundreds of cheering families, friends, caregivers and hospital care team members. 

Judith Atwood, a breast cancer survivor from Jasper, Ind., walked the red carpet with her family, including her 4-year-old granddaughter, Skylar. During a ceremony led by Pete Govorchin, President and CEO of CTCA Chicago, Skylar was recognized for hosting a lemonade stand to raise money for people battling cancer – inspired by her grandmother’s personal journey. Skylar brought with her to the event the $46.50 that she raised, and excitedly presented the funds to Kelly Tinnes from the American Cancer Society, who was in attendance to accept her donation. 

Of the over 100 celebrants at the event, there were more than 30 from Illinois. Alfonzia Martin, a prostate cancer survivor from Chicago, attended the event with his wife, Cecilia. The two met and married after Martin began treatment at CTCA Chicago. Martin, who has worked for Kraft 

Foods for over 42 years, is a father to two adult girls and also a proud grandfather. 

Betty Harrington Robinson, a five-year breast cancer survivor from Chicago, is retiring after 33 years as a nutritionist for the Department of Health. After retirement, she will have more time to spend with her seven grandkids and three great grandkids, as well as possibly pursue her doctorate degree. 

After the ceremony, celebrants took part in a commemorative tree planting ceremony. The 2019 Celebrate Life event marks the 31st year that a tree has been planted in honor of each five-year survivor in attendance, helping replenish and strengthen our nation’s landscape with a thriving forest of life-giving trees symbolic of cancer survivorship. 

As celebrants and their families enjoyed the festivities, they shared their experience and strength with one another and took time to visit patients in the hospital, offering a traditional “Hope” pin coupled with words of support. Many also reflected on moments they have been able to share with their families and how they view life through a new lens due to their cancer journeys. Before the day concluded, each celebrant was personally honored on stage along with their fellow five-year survivors. 

“Five years ago, this astounding group of cancer survivors came to Cancer Treatment Centers of America Chicago with a great sense of hope, searching for answers and innovative treatment options that fit their specific needs,” said Govorchin. “We’re proud to honor each celebrant’s strength and perseverance through their journey. Today is not only a testament to the CTCA five-year cancer survivors, but to all survivors. 

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