Sister M. Anselma, COO, visiting with guests before the event

ALTON – More than 300 cancer survivors, family members and caregivers, came together last Thursday to experience a “Night of HOPE” at the annual Cancer Survivors Celebration sponsored by OSF HealthCare Saint Anthony’s Cancer Center.

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Dinner guests were welcomed by members of the cancer team, including medical oncologists, Dr. Manpreet Sandhu and Dr. Wei Lin, and Radiation Oncologist, Dr. James Piephoff. The evening included an inspiring message from State Senator William “Bill” Haine, (D-Alton) of his personal cancer journey and an uplifting vocal performance by the Sisters of Saint Francis of the Martyr Saint George.

Cancer survivors were each given a packet of small seeds. Chief Operating Officer Sister M. Anselma told attendees the seeds were a symbol of growth that can emerge from darkness.

"I invite you to reflect this evening on how the seed of hope has blossomed in your own life. For as dark and difficult as your journey through cancer may have been, I believe that God was doing something very precious and sacred in your heart during that time,” she said.

Heather Jones, Patient Navigator, sharing a hug with a survivor

To carry on the theme of hope, survivors placed a silver leaf on the ‘Survivor Tree’ – a beautifully crafted piece of artwork that will be on display in the new Cancer Center.

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One of the most inspiring moments of the evening came as Sister Anselma asked survivors in the room to stand and be recognized starting with those who were diagnosed and received treatment just one year ago. The progression continued through decades of survivorship, ending with those who have been cancer free for 35 plus years. Among those in the audience rising to stand, was a man who proudly sprung up from his wheelchair to be counted among those surviving for more than 35 years.

Also in attendance were the ladies of ‘Caring Circle’, who meet monthly to share their stories, support each other, and to find ways to give back to the community. Because support is so important, the group is open to any woman who has had cancer, no matter where treatment was received.

Through a recent Community Cancer Needs Assessment conducted by OSF Saint Anthony’s, it became evident that cancer survivors feel a strong need for continued support. Over the course of this next year, the cancer center will continue to build out programs that will add layers of support for cancer patients through volunteer opportunities.

President Ajay Pathak celebrated the patients who have endured their treatments and have come out on the other side of their struggle with cancer. "Their strength and courage inspires each and every one of us at OSF Saint Anthony's Health Center."

Pathak also recalled that it was one year ago the community heard the announcement of plans for a new Cancer Center. He told them construction is underway and moving at a rapid pace.

"Our $14 million dollar, standalone facility that is being built on the OSF HealthCare Saint Anthony's campus is really designed around you, our patients, allowing us to collaborate clinically and to focus on your needs. It truly is going to be state-of-the-art and something that ultimately benefits you and the community," he said.

Completion of the new Cancer center is anticipated in the fall of 2019.

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