On June 7, McPherson resident, JoAnn Moege, celebrated being a cancer survivor for over five years along with more than 100 other survivors at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Chicago. It was the 31st annual Celebrate Life event for the CTCA.

Holding the event during National Cancer Survivor Month each June, Celebrate Life brings together both cancer survivors and caregivers for a day of empowerment and celebration. Survivors all stand united to support one-another, celebrate the moments they’ve gained and encourage those who are currently navigating their own cancer journey.

CTCA estimates that by 2040, there will be more than 26 million cancer survivors in the United States as medical research and treatment options continue to advance which provides people more than ever the opportunity to continue living as cancer survivors. They also say that survivorship is the new frontier in cancer care, and hospitals like theirs in Chicago offer an integrated care approach to help patients achieve a high quality of life. It is a reason to celebrate.

 “Being at Celebrate Life as a five-year survivor means the world to me. My husband and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary, I’ve been witness to four of my grandchildren graduating, and I’ve watched my family grow with the addition of a son-in-law and his daughter,” Moege explained. “In a way I felt overwhelmed, not by the size of the celebration but the fact that I was included alongside so many who went through much harder times and struggles to make their five-year anniversary. Considering what I went through compared to others left me feeling such a great amount of love and respect for the other survivors.”

At the hospital campus in Zion, Illinois, the Celebrate Life event kicked off when the first of seven coach buses arrived in front of the hospital, filled with jubilant celebrants, caregivers and loved ones. As the doors opened from each bus, the eager passenger’s first steps came on a red carpet lined with hundreds of cheering families, friends, caregivers and hospital care team members.

The Cancer Treatment Centers of America Global, Inc. is a comprehensive cancer care network of hospitals and outpatient care centers located in Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Tulsa, Oklahoma. While specializing in the treatment of adult cancer patients, CTCA offers an integrative approach to care that combines surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy with advancements in precision cancer treatment and supportive therapies designed to manage the side effects while enhancing the quality of life both during and after treatment.

Other offerings through the CTCA system include a range of clinical trials offered to qualified patients that may reveal new treatment options supported by scientific and investigational research. The patient satisfaction scores from the CTCA programs are consistently ranked among the highest for all cancer care providers in the country.

Moege pointed out that she is a survivor thanks to one of the other treatments that combined surgery and radiation at the same time.

“Instead of a lengthy period of radiation or chemotherapy, I was given the opportunity to try a European treatment that is not often used in the United States,” she explained. “Immediately after they removed the lump from my breast, the specialist came in and after setting up a protective barrier for my heart, they fired a 45-second round of radiation and that was it, they closed me up and entered recovery without any lengthy treatments to follow.”

After her red-carpet walk, Moege took part in a commemorative tree planting ceremony. The ceremony symbolizes the wonder of life and growth as the 2019 Celebrate Life event marks the 31st year that a tree has been planted in honor of each five-year survivor in attendance. It helps to replenish and strengthen our nation’s landscape with a thriving forest of life-giving trees that symbolize cancer survivorship.

“Through my journey, I’ve learned that it’s not the grand events that fill our lives with happiness, but the little everyday events that make our days and fill our lives with purpose,”Moege said.

For the first time ever as an added level of significance to this year’s Celebrate Life, all five of the CTCA hospitals located in Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma, hosted local Celebrate Life events during the same week. Overall, a total of over 1,500 five-year cancer survivors were honored, representing 47 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

“Five years ago, this astounding group of cancer survivors came to Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Chicago with a great sense of hope, searching for answers and innovative treatment options that fit their specific needs,” President and CEO of CTCA Chicago, Pete Govorchin said. “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 cancer survivors.”

As the celebrants and their families enjoyed the festivities, they each shared stories of survivorship with one another and took time to visit patients in the hospital who are currently going through their own journey with cancer. With each visit, current patients were offered a traditional “Hope” pin coupled with words of support. Many of the survivors 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 own journey with cancer. Before the day of celebration concluded, each celebrant was personally honored on stage, in front of and along with all their fellow five-year survivors.

“Please, remember to get your yearly and/or routine checkups as point number one. Secondly, if you are found to have a possible issue, be sure to consult with another medical practitioner or specialist to get a second and/or verified opinion,” Moege said. “And the third point to remember is if you have a health issue – go where they specialize in the health issue you may be having. I found my issued during one of those routine/yearly checkups, so may others.”