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Articles / 2009

Nation Cancer Survivers Day celebrated with relish and barbecue

Ventura County Star
Monday, 06/08/2009

The sunny skies, aromatic smells of barbecue and lively music provided a joyful backdrop for cancer survivors and their families at the Cancer Survivors Day celebration Sunday at the Community Memorial Hospital Cancer Resource Center in Ventura.

“We’re here to celebrate the fact that these people have all survived a lot and they deserve a celebration,” said Kathleen Horton, cancer program manager.

The Ventura celebration is part of National Cancer Survivors Day, which is celebrated the first Sunday in June. St. John’s Cancer Center of Ventura County also held a National Cancer Survivors’ Day celebration Sunday at St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Oxnard.

In Ventura, Richard Cox, 79, and his sister-in-law Viola Kolkman, 81, both cancer survivors, waited at a picnic table to eat as they enjoyed the music provided by vocalist Teri Lee Miller of Ventura and guitarist John Grimaldo of Fillmore.

Cox said he has survived colon cancer, but his wife is currently hospitalized with lymphoma cancer. Kolkman, who has survived breast cancer, said she was at the celebration to enjoy the day with others like herself.

Debbie Smith of Ventura said her husband, Jerry, 55, is battling a rare form of stomach cancer. “I’m trying to find people to provide support for him and me,” she said.

Smith said it is important to reach out to others.

“You can’t do it alone. Nobody is in this alone,” she said, adding that her husband wasn’t up to attending the celebration.

Angie Fullmer, 42, brought her children, Samantha, 7, and Emily, 10, along with her husband, James, to commemorate the anniversary of her breast cancer diagnosis. “I’m doing very well. I finished my chemo in November,” Angie Fullmer said.

Angie Fullmer said she had received support from the CMH Cancer Resource Center support groups. She was especially looking forward to spending the afternoon with some friends who were joining her to celebrate.

“It’s amazing the support of family and friends we’ve received,” James Fullmer said.

Ted Wakai, 95, of Oxnard was providing impromptu entertainment as he went from table to table doing sleight of hand tricks to delight the children. “I’m a survivor. Not technically, but my wife, her sister, her niece, my mother and father all died of cancer and my two other brothers are living with cancer,” he said. “I have more fun with kids. I feel better if they laugh.”

Rob Brand of Camarillo, a cancer survivor who holds a doctorate in psychology, has just started a group called Support for People with Oral and Head and Neck Cancer.

He said people have different ways of dealing with diagnoses that can include radical surgery and intervention.

“They’re all over the map; some get angry. We deal with all these issues,” he said.

Sandy Berg, community service manager for the American Cancer Society, and a cancer survivor herself, said the society has declared itself, “the official sponsor of birthdays,” as a vanilla and strawberry full sheet cake was wheeled out.

“One family came by and the mother was saying to their children, ‘This is so much better than when we came last year right after we found out I had cancer,’” Berg said.

“Once you’ve had cancer, it’s always with you. Even if you’re cured,
it’s something you want to celebrate,” Horton said.