The American Cancer Society and Warren General Hospital Cancer Center's fifth annual Celebration of Life exceeded expectations Wednesday evening, with attendance half again higher than last year.
The event was held at the Conewango Club in downtown Warren, and paid for by grants from pharmaceutical companies Teva, Novartis, Celgene, Bristol-Meyers Squibb and Amgen.
Anyone with any connection to cancer was encouraged to attend.
"I feel like an airline - we overbooked," Terry Cook, R.N. and Cancer Center director, said. He invited any breast cancer survivor to have their photo taken after dinner for future Breast Cancer Wall panels. The wall is displayed each year during the event.
Regardless of the numbers, the dinner and presentations by the Warren County YMCA Livestrong program and Warren County Hospice were well received.
A string ensemble from Youngsville High School, conducted by Cindy Scheid, YHS music educator, entertained guests before the buffet dinner.
Chris Dolan, YMCA health and wellness director, described how the pilot and first full Livestrong program worked.
She said cancer survivors started with a one-on-one intake program and a brief, six-minute fitness assessment that allowed trainers to tailor programs to individuals, rather than use a 'one size fits all' approach.
Dolan said, "This is much, much more than a fitness program," as it also entailed group discussions on health and nutrition and support from family, friends and staff members.
Kim Slocum, YMCA marketing director and grant writer, noted that a grant from the Livestrong Foundation enabled three staff members to travel to Chicago for training.
She added that the Y partners with the Cancer Center and the community to provide the service to survivors. Additionally, each participant is matched with someone the same age, sex, and cancer type so they can speak with a person who knows exactly what they are going through.
There are also avenues for people who need financial assistance for equipment or other needs.
Mary Massa, a Livestrong participant, and her husband Joe spoke about how the program helped them. He said the Y is "greater than the sum of its parts. I was touched by the support of the staff members." She added, "We were truly honored and humbled to be participants."
Linda Chase, Patient Care coordinator for Warren County Hospice, described changes to hospice care, saying, "I equate hospice with coffee. Thirty years ago, you had coffee and tea. Now there is mocha, expresso cappuccino... and today there are many kinds of hospice."
She said there is specialized care for people with life-limiting illnesses, and hospice is not about giving up. She explained that palliative care treatment provides relief from suffering anytime during the course of a serious illness.
Another local asset is the DeFrees Support Program, assisting individuals with challenges of life-limiting illnesses.
She said Bereavement Services help people cope with grief and pain, especially children.
"The John and Orpha Blair Hospice residence is a beautiful residence, but more importantly it provides beautiful care," she said.
Chase listed some of the new additions to hospice, including Bereavement Bears, Living Legacy hard-cover books that chronicle an individual's story, pediatric palliative care and a new Hospice office at 1 Main St., on the corner of Main Avenue and Crescent Park. The building is across the street from Warren General Hospital and will house all of Warren County Hospice's offices once renovations are complete.