Cancer Survivors Celebrate Life and Hope at Derby Party and Parade
While the rest of the city was busily preparing for the 137th Annual Kentucky Derby Thursday afternoon, a festive crowd across the street from the James Graham Brown Cancer Center was enjoying a celebration of a different kind – a celebration of survival.
The Cancer Survivors’ Party at the Clinical Translational Research Building across from University of Louisville Hospital and the Brown Cancer Center was alive with sunshine, music, food and festivities, and even a red carpet for participants to walk before the judges in the Derby Hat Contest.
The event, sponsored by Kentucky Cancer Program and the James Graham Brown Cancer Center at the University of Louisville, featured Julep Ball Survivor Ambassador Sherry Howell, who will debut a designer dress from local fashion designer and Project Runway hopeful Gunnar Detherage at tonight’s Derby Eve Julep Ball.
Other esteemed guests and speakers included such notables as Governor Steve Beshear and First Lady Jane Beshear (pictured below with Kentucky Cancer Program Director Connie Sorrell) and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer; and there was even a celebrity sighting, actress and former Baywatch beauty Melissa Biggs. But the most important guests were the hundreds of cancer survivors invited to celebrate the simple joy of being alive.
Skin cancer survivor and Vietnam veteran Carl Jackson, 64, and his wife, Sandy were enjoying the great weather and camaraderie of the day. Carl said he felt like it was a great time to step forward and celebrate with other cancer survivors. “It just makes you feel good to be here where you feel welcome. You know you’re not the only one,” he said.
Pam Simms, 49, was another survivor attending the event. Pam was treated by Dr. Goetz Kloecker for lung cancer at the James Graham Brown Cancer Center in 2007, an experience she called “awesome.”
Pam said her baseball-sized tumor was shrunk down to nothing through chemotherapy and radiation treatments and as of today, Pam’s diagnosis is that she is “cancer-free.” “Everyone at the Brown Cancer Center was there to help you,” she said. “I felt so much love there.”
Dr. Anthony Dragun, a radiation oncologist with the Breast Cancer Team at the Brown Cancer Center, (pictured below), enjoyed the festivities with two of his breast cancer patients, Ramona Mayo, left, who also netted a prize for her decorative hat, and Nancy Kotarski. The two women are friends from the Ft. Knox area, and both are happy to be celebrating the end of treatment at the party. “Today is the first anniversary of my first chemo treatment,” said Nancy.
At the conclusion of the event, all survivors took home a special token from the day and lined up to march to Broadway to view the annual Pegasus Parade.
For a full photo gallery of this event, visit our University of Louisville Hospital Facebook Page.