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Articles / 2008

People who live with cancer celebrate survival
Many advise to connect with a group

Ventura County Star
Monday, June 2, 2008
By Stephanie Hoops

Being told that they had cancer, survivors say, propelled them into a dark, lonely place that left them looking for people to buoy them up.

Helmut Hoenigsberg has been there. In 2002, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He was successfully treated in 2003 with brachytherapy. The 78-year-old Ventura man's advice to others who have just been diagnosed is to find comradeship.

"Go to a group," he said. "Join a group. You'll find people who have the same problem and were treated. The group is ideal."

Hoenigsberg was among a gathering expected to swell to more than 100 people Sunday afternoon at Community Memorial Health System's Cancer Resource Center in Ventura on National Cancer Survivors Day.

Carol Wigton, 63, of Ventura was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2006. The tumor was surgically removed, and she was treated with chemotherapy and radiation. Her cancer is in remission today.

The support system she found in groups through the resource center was helpful, she said.

Other than that, she offered this: "Just don't give up hope."

The annual get-together is held on the first Sunday in June. It evolved out of the life of Richard Bloch, co-founder of H&R Block, who held the first cancer survivor rally 22 years ago in Kansas City, Mo.

Bloch became a passionate crusader to help fight the disease after he was given 90 days to live in 1978. He was diagnosed with lung cancer but chose to fight for his life. He was declared cancer-free in 1980 and lived until 2004, when he died from heart failure.

Bloch's advice to others with cancer is contained in a letter he wrote that has been posted on the R.A. Bloch Cancer Foundation Web site. It states in part: "The biggest and the hardest single thing that you will be required to do in the entire battle is to make up your mind to really fight it. You must, on your own, make the commitment that you will do everything in your power to fight your disease. No exceptions."

It's because of Bloch that Cancer Survivors Day has "become a huge national event," said Kathleen Horton, CMH cancer program manager.

It's a day when survivors can pull together with others who are in a certain state of mind, she said. "Cancer survivors, once they're past a certain point, it changes your whole life and it changes your whole life forever."

It may help to meet with people who can attest to the fact that cancer is not necessarily a death sentence.

"There's a lot of misconception about cancer," said the Rev. Curtis Hotchkiss, director of spiritual care for CMH. "People live with cancer now. They don't die from it. They live with it."

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