Penn State Hershey hosts a celebration of life after cancer

Leading up to National Cancer Survivors Day on Sunday, June 7, Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute hosted “Hope Grows Here,” a variety of activities to celebrate survivors, families and caregivers; offer hope to those fighting this disease; and raise awareness of the challenges of cancer survivorship.

A survivor is anyone living with a history of cancer -- from the moment of diagnosis through the remainder of life -- whether in active treatment, just diagnosed or in remission for 20 years.

Connie Duffy, a breast cancer survivor and nurse manager at Penn State Hershey, shared her cancer journey as part of the event to give back.

“I’m inspired by paying it forward as others had done for me, “Duffy said. “It is important for people to know that when you are handed the ‘c’ word diagnosis, it doesn't have to equate to a death sentence. I personally couldn't breathe when I was given the news but I renewed my faith and trust in God and told him I would help others get through if he would let me live to tell my story and help others. Life is better when you can help others.

“I became a nurse to help others but this journey has put me on a bit of a different path -- one where the little things don't bother me like they used to and one where I truly appreciate each and every day given to me,” she continued. “It is cliché to say ‘each day is a gift’ but each day truly is, and if helping others makes the world a better place, then I am fulfilling a promise I made.”

Duffy, who lost her mother to cancer two years before her diagnosis, has been in remission for almost two years.

Other activities included Hope Grows Here fingerprint tree canvas art, gentle yoga, tai chi, and Pilates demonstrations, music by Center Stage, educational presentations and displays and chair massages by Debbie Olson of Hearts.Hands.Healing. located in Hershey. Olson has been practicing oncology massage for the last 15 years, and volunteered her time in the infusion room. 

“I can’t imagine what it’s like to go through cancer, but research shows oncology massage can boost the immune system, decrease stress and improve markers in patients undergoing cancer treatment,” Olson said. ”I’ll do anything that I can to help people understand that oncology massage works.”

The events were organized by a committee of Penn State Hershey faculty and staff.

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Last Updated June 11, 2015