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Every Thursday, like clockwork, attorney Pamela St. John can be found volunteering at The Miriam Hospital. It wasn’t long ago that she herself was a patient there.
In April of 2006, after noticing lumps on her groin, then her neck and underarms, St. John was diagnosed with low-grade follicular lymphoma, a form of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. She started chemotherapy at The Leonard and Adele R. Decof Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at The Miriam Hospital . Her cancer went away, but then her husband was diagnosed with a severe respiratory illness. He was admitted to The Miriam 11 times between 2007 and 2009 before he passed away.
In December, 2006, St. John’s low-grade follicular lymphoma reappeared, requiring more chemotherapy. She was then diagnosed with a new cancer – diffuse large cell lymphoma. She had additional chemotherapy and hormone treatment at The Miriam Hospital, and her physician, The Miriam Hospital’s hematology and oncology specialist Edward Wittels, MD, arranged for her to have a stem cell transplant in Boston.
Today, St. John has regained her health and wants to give back. In addition to volunteering at The Miriam, she serves on the Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Patient Family Advisory Council (PFAC) – helping to organize patient initiatives such as music programs and art projects – and she is a member of the patient support team guiding other cancer patients through their diagnosis and treatment.
“I could not have done it without this team,” says St. John. “They were so compassionate and kind to my husband it was almost infectious – and they were so knowledgeable and positive. They always had a plan. That’s what The Miriam gave me in my fight against cancer – the fact that you could be positive and you didn’t feel that you were alone.”
On Sunday, October 4, The Comprehensive Cancer Center (CCC) of Rhode Island, The Miriam and Newport hospitals and The Lifespan Community Health Institute will be hosting “Cancer Survivors Day” to celebrate and show support for survivors like Pamela St. John, who will be sharing her experiences as both a cancer patient and support team member.
Kim Zandy, of Giovanni and Kim in the Morning on 92 PRO-FM, will kick off the family-friendly event at the Casino at Roger Williams Park which will begin with a ribbon cutting and a one-third mile celebration walk in the park led by supporter Diane Chelo and Sharon Benson, NP, of the Comprehensive Cancer Center. Geared to individuals of all ages, the free event will feature yoga demonstrations, massage, live music from local musicians, food, face painting and a magic show for kids, and educational information about maintaining good health.
Medical oncologist Kenneth Bishop, MD, of The Comprehensive Cancer Center at Rhode Island and The Miriam hospitals, will lead a discussion about the journey towards a cure and wellness after cancer, and Sharon Benson, NP, will talk about the unique needs of cancer survivors and how The Comprehensive Cancer Center addresses those needs – from offering survivorship clinics to one-on-one patient meetings and individualized care plans. Fred Schiffman, MD, medical director of the Comprehensive Cancer Center, and other care providers and patients will also offer advice to survivors, family, and friends and share personal survivorship experiences.
“A cancer diagnosis and treatment can be truly devastating to patients and their loved ones,” says Kathy Higginbotham, LICSW, of The Miriam Hospital. “It’s important that they know we understand that, and there is a support system available to help them every step of the way. They’re not alone – and that’s what Cancer Survivors Day is all about.”
For more information about Cancer Survivors Day, visit www.cancer.lifespan.org.