Durham County

Surviving and thriving: Duke celebrates cancer patients, caregivers

Duke cancer patients, survivors, caregivers practice tai chi

Video: John Hillson, a Duke nurse, leads a tai chi class during the Duke Cancer Institute's annual Supportive Care and Survivorship Day on Wednesday June 7, 2017, in Durham, NC. The event was an opportunity for Duke cancer patients, survivors and
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Video: John Hillson, a Duke nurse, leads a tai chi class during the Duke Cancer Institute's annual Supportive Care and Survivorship Day on Wednesday June 7, 2017, in Durham, NC. The event was an opportunity for Duke cancer patients, survivors and

Cancer patients and their caretakers arrived at the Duke Cancer Center for a day of pampering and support on Wednesday.

The Supportive Care and Survivorship Day featured makeovers, health classes, cooking demonstrations, a panel and an unveiling of a photo essay.

Kristy Everette, coordinator for the Duke Cancer Patient Support Program and one of the event’s organizers, said the event was meant to provide information on support and community resouces while also tending to and educating patients.

“Not only do we want to do the educationg and the pampering, but we want to celebrate,” Everette said. “This day is huge on celebrating our patients and the journey that they have gone through.”

Earnestine Goods went as part of the Sisters Network Inc., an organization committed to spreading awareness of the impact breast cancer has in the African American communities. Goods herself has had breast cancer since 2002. At the event she got her makeup done and had a headscarf tied for her.

“It makes you feel good about yourself,” she said. “It makes you feel like you’re blessed to have survived and to thrive, and you just feel good.”

Luningning Robb, a leaukemia survivor, found out about the event through her doctors at the center. She said she appreciates everything the hospital’s staff has done for her, keeping her lively through her treatments.

“We are talking; we are playing,” Robb said. “We do karaoke in the hospital.”

Robb’s friend Dolly Alivia accompanied her to the day’s event.

“She told me to come here, to be with her, because I’ve been with her since she got cancer,” Alivia said.

Everette said Duke’s center is unique becuase it provides resources for caretakers – like Alivia – as well as patients.

“We really feel the family is the core, so that’s why this dat is so all-inclusive,” she said.

Volunteers educated attendees about services patients and their families would be able to use during and after treatment, such as counseling services, social work and pro-bono legal programs.

“The resources that we’re sharing with them, we’re hoping that they leave from here and they’ll be able to access those resrouces in the community,” Everette said.

Also featured at the event was a photo essay by Jared Lazarus called The Many Faces of Cancer.

Lazarus works for Duke Photography and thought his photography could help cancer patients by capurting them in their own environments to reflect who they are aside from the cancer.

Soon after Lazarus started his photo essay, doctors found a tumor in his daughter. The tumor turned out to be benign, but the situation inspired him to continue his work with cancer patients. He said photographing the survivors helped him get through the tough time.

“I thought I would be inspiring cancer patients,” he said. “But instead they changed my life.”

Ben Norris was one of Lazarus’ subjects. He was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2003 and survived the disease twice. In addition to having cancer himself, he also took care of both his wife and son while they went through cancer treatments.

At the unveiling, Norris told a story of how he drove Jeff Gordon’s car at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“Next I want to go to Daytona where they have a faster track,” he said.

The 83-year-old from New Bern said he has dedicated his life to stopping cancer. He raises money for research by skydiving, a hobby of his displayed in the photo essay.

Everette said nutrition and exercise are instrumental to recovery, which is why health classes – including meditation and tai chi – were available to attendees.

Oncology nurse John Hillson led patients through breathing exercises during his tai chi session. He regularly gives lessons for patients in the center on Fridays.

Everette said the center started the event in 2009 and takes place during National Survivors’ Week. She said the event’s main goal is to have patients leave rejuvenated and educated.

"When they leave we hope they leave with a smile,” she said. “Feeling a little bit lighter – better."

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