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Survivors, patients honored
Local cancer center hosts celebration
060112 CANCER SURVIVOR DAY 01
Cancer survivors Nellie Driggers, center, and Karen Arnold, right, get acquainted over low country boil during Cancer Survivor Day at South Georgia Center for Cancer Care Friday. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

It is not every day that people flock to a cancer center for a fun, relaxing time.
But about 40 individuals did exactly that Friday to take part in an annual celebration for those who have, and are battling, the rampant disease. 
In honor of National Cancer Survivors Day, the South Georgia Center for Cancer Care hosted its second annual Cancer Survivor Day celebration for local cancer survivors, patients and their friends and family.
The group gathered on the center’s lawn, on Lester Road, under a large, pink tent for a luau-themed party, featuring free food, games, contests and entertainment.
“Cancer Survivor Day is an incredibly meaningful and inspiring event in our community that is cherished by each and every cancer survivor, loved one and medical staff member that attends,” said David Weems, co-founder of the South Georgia Center for Cancer Care. “We look forward to the event each year as a time to recognize and reflect on the strength and courage of each and every cancer survivor, acknowledging that it takes a strong support system to help any patient get through the physical and emotional challenges of a cancer diagnosis.”
In the cooling shade, those attending Friday’s event were able to enjoy Lowcountry boil, chat with people in similar circumstance, and enjoy music by Chris and Ashlee Mitchell — Ashlee Mitchell has won her own fight against cancer.
“We are here to just celebrate our current patients and those that have survived cancer. We want this to be a huge celebration,” said Kymberly Benjamin, of the South Georgia Center for Cancer Care. “It is important that we can celebrate life. It also helps build support for those currently battling cancer to see that there are so many people who have survived.”
For patients and survivors, the celebration provided an opportunity to commemorate all that they have been through.
“It is a joy to see people that have had cancer and survived able to be here and have a good time,” said Tony Howard, a survivor attending the event. “We all go through stuff sometimes, but we all have the ability to heal. I have seen people here that have been really down and out, and to see them smiling and being happy is a true joy.”
Howard, 52, underwent a final radiation treatment to eliminate prostate cancer in December.
“I went to the doctor after December, and the doctor said that I would die from something. We all die from something. But he told me, ‘It won’t be prostrate cancer,’” Howard said. “I just said ‘Thank God’ and ‘Hallelujah.’”
Gary Baxley was one of a number of people taking part in festivities who still has a bit of a way to go with treatment.
“I was cancer free for about a week before they discovered a little something on my liver,” said Baxley, who has been treated since October for gastric cancer. “Treatment could take one year or less, but they say that they’ll get it. They’re real optimistic.
“The event here is just super,” he continued. “I see a lot of people here who were here when I was, and they’re having a good time. It is great.”
The cancer survivor celebration kicks off Survivor’s Month, which is observed in June.

Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.

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