Glendale Memorial Hospital honors cancer survivors and their caretakers

More than 100 cancer survivors celebrated their victory over cancer at Glendale Memorial Hospital Thursday evening during a patriotic themed event.

Each survivor wore a red, white and blue-striped ribbon and enjoyed a meal with friends and family as they were served dinner by hospital oncology staff and volunteers.

Maryann Robertson, the supervisor of the Marcia Ray Breast Center who helped establish the annual celebration said it’s a time for cancer survivors to come together and inspire those who’ve been recently diagnosed.

“The newly diagnosed — when they see patients that have survived five, 10, 20, 40 years — when they see that, they have hope for themselves,” she said.

Among the 115 survivors was 60-year-old Ramona Kurasz, a 35-year Glendale resident who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000. She underwent a lumpectomy and lost her hair after undergoing chemotherapy and radiation.

“You know how it is when they say you have cancer — you just about fall apart. You don’t know all the time what’s happening to you or what to expect,” she said. “There were times when I was scared and they would just sit with me.”

Mayor Laura Friedman, herself a cancer survivor, spoke before giving the Marcia Ray Breast Center a commendation.

“I give a lot of commendations, but this one is different for me. This one’s very close to the heart,” she said, sharing how she was diagnosed with breast cancer at the center in 2006.

Friedman said she wouldn’t forget the moment when her radiologist asked her to return to the hospital the following morning. A nurse turned to the radiologist and mentioned a staff meeting scheduled the same morning.

“The doctor looked at her and said, ‘Cancel it. This is more important,’” Friedman recalled. “It was terrifying for me, but I knew I was in the best of hands at that point.”

Registered Nurse Elaine Ramirez was given the Donald L Bogdon Cancer Survivor Award, a recognition for those who have distinguished themselves in fighting against cancer. Ramirez, who supervises oncology workers at Glendale Memorial Hospital, said she choked up at the sight of all the survivors.

“I saw a lot of them in bed in a gown,” she said. “When you see them in a bed they look sad — they’re tired and sick.”

But on Thursday, Ramirez said she saw vitality, and dedicated the award to the team of people it takes to treat cancer patients.

“It’s the nurses, the doctors, the social workers, the pharmacists — everybody,” she said. “There’s so many people that go into one patient in helping them to survive. I’m the least important one. They’re the ones who make it happen.”

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