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Survivors from across the country, included one from St. Francis, gathered for a celebration of hope and a commemorative tree planting ceremony at Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Midwestern Regional Medical Center in Zion, Illinois.

On June 9, Jessica Hansen, a cervical cancer survivor from St. Francis, joined more than 135 fellow five-year cancer survivors at CTCA Midwestern for its 29th annual Celebrate Life event.

While some cancer rates continue to climb, medical treatments are also advancing, providing more patients with the hope and resources they need to battle this disease. Survivorship is the new frontier in cancer care, and hospitals, like CTCA, offer dedicated survivorship programs to help patients achieve a high quality of life post-cancer treatment.

Annual celebration

Celebrate Life is an annual event that brings together both cancer survivors and caregivers for a day of empowerment and celebration.

Survivors stand united to support one another, celebrate the moments they’ve gained, and encourage those who are currently working through their own cancer journey.

The day began with the celebrants and caregivers entering the CTCA at Midwestern campus on seven large coach buses.

As they disembarked, many with loved ones by their side, they took a momentous walk down a lavish red carpet, which was lined with hundreds of cheering family, friends, caregivers and hospital care team members who attended to help these individuals celebrate their five years of cancer survivorship.

Symbolic tree

After the red-carpet walk, Hansen took part in a commemorative tree-planting ceremony, symbolizing the wonder of life and growth.

The 2017 Celebrate Life event marks the 29th 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 that represent cancer survivorship.

Participants honored, also including Mary Lemke of Greenfield, represented 29 states, and one from the Bahamas, each offering support and strength to others, as they proudly posed for a photo in front of their commemorative tree.

“My quality of life over the past five years has gone from not having the right life priorities to making every second of every day count,” said Hansen. “With the support of my husband and family over these past years, I have picked myself back up for good and can officially declare that I’ve beaten cancer.”

Hope for others

Many of the five-year survivors also took time to walk through the hospital, offering comfort, support and the traditional “Hope” pin to other patients and family members who are currently battling cancer.

Before the day concluded, each celebrant was personally honored and revered, on stage, in front of and along with their fellow five-year survivors.

“Five years ago, this amazing group of cancer survivors came to CTCA with a great sense of hope, searching for answers and cancer care that fit their specific needs,” said Scott Jones, president and CEO of CTCA at Midwestern. “While everyone’s journey and experience is unique, we honor and respect the strength and perseverance it takes for them to be here. Today is not only a testament to the CTCA five-year cancer survivors being honored, but also all survivors, wherever they may be in their journeys.”

For more information on Celebrate Life or CTCA at Midwestern, go online to www.cancercenter.com/midwestern.

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