By Jason KUROSU
In honor of those who have endured and overcome cancer, Glendale Memorial Hospital hosted the aptly named Celebration of Life, an annual event in recognition of the struggles as well as the triumphs of local cancer survivors.
The event was held Friday in front of Glendale Memorial Hospital’s Marcia Ray Breast Center, which provides more than 12,000 exams per year, including mammograms and procedures such as stereotactic biopsies.
Nine cancer survivors were honored at the event, but the Celebration of Life, held during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, was dedicated to all those suffering from what Glendale Memorial’s director of radiology Housni Hariri said is the leading cause of death in women.
“The least we can do from a human kindness standpoint is celebrate their success,” Hariri said.
For Hariri, that element of human kindness represents more than exams and tests, but also dignity and respecting the whole patient.
Speakers representing the hospital and the community at large spoke to the importance of staying healthy from both an individual and collective standpoint.
Dr. David Russo, medical director of Breast Imaging Services at the Marcia Ray Breast Center, said that less and less money has been going towards breast cancer treatment, despite annual screenings recommended by “virtually all medical societies and people who care deeply about these issues.”
“We need to change the conversation from saving dollars to saving lives,” said Russo. “Unless we speak up as a community, the people who are affected by this and work in this, that’s not going to change.”
Recognition of these issues by the community was reflected by speakers such as Carl Povalaitis, Glendale deputy chief of police. Povalaitis spoke of the importance of police maintaining close ties with those in the medical field, for the benefit of the entire community.
“One of the goals that we try to achieve is that we want to have a safe and a healthy city. Those goals really go together. [During] all of my career, there’s always been sort of a kinship between safety services. When there’s a major emergency, all of these systems really have to work together,” Povalaitis said.
The Glendale Police Dept. has taken a personal stake in Breast Cancer Awareness Month by repainting one of its Ford Explorers pink. The move was made in honor of Glendale Police spokeswoman Tahnee Lightfoot, who was diagnosed in May.
Povalaitis encouraged any and all to sign the pink police car should they see it around town.
“As we look at being out in the community, we want to raise awareness, we want that community to be both healthy and safe. We know that when we’re dealing with kids and parents, we want kids to be healthy, we want kids to be educated. That’s what puts them on the right track in life. Facilities like this help keep us all healthy as a community, help keep our community on the right track.”
Andrew Emmet, senior marketing manager for the American Cancer Society, said that support is out there for those in need.
According to Emmet, among the services that the American Cancer Society provides include the hotel lodging program, which provides a place to stay for patients who have to travel long distances for the proper treatment, and the Road to Recovery program, which provides transportation for those who need it.
Emmet said the American Cancer Society provided 58,000 rides to California cancer patients last year.
Elga Zadmaousa-Khanian, professor of Health and Nutrition at CSU Northridge, offered nutritional tips for those undergoing cancer treatment. Zadmaousa-Khanian said that maintaining a healthy diet is a difficult necessity for cancer patients, who need to strengthen themselves, yet often cannot work up a proper appetite.
“It’s not easy, because some of us who go through this treatment, don’t have the patience, the appetite. We are depressed sometimes,” said Zadmaousa-Khanian. “But we need to fight and we need to win this fight.”
She recommended eating smaller portions, staying active as much as possible to bolster the appetite and “taking advantage of the days you feel well.”
But it wouldn’t truly be a celebration of life without celebration and those watching the gathering at the hospital’s Eulalia Street cul de sac from a distance may very well have mistaken the balloons, food, and live jazz band for an impromptu block party.