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June 23, 2013

Showing their strength in numbers

Annual cancer survivors carnival in New Albany a ‘day to celebrate’

NEW ALBANY — Barbara Bunvan is new to cancer. She found out she had breast cancer in December and has been receiving chemotherapy. Her journey is just beginning.

That is why she decided to attend Friday’s Cancer Survivors Reunion at Floyd Memorial Hospital’s Cancer Center of Indiana along Green Valley Road in New Albany. Being around others who have fought — and are still fighting the battle — against the disease is a source of strength for Bunvan.

“I have been attending the Angels of Hope support group and that is how I found out about it,” she said. “That really helps. That is why I attend support groups. Many of these same people are going through similar experiences. I really didn’t know what to expect today.”

Bunvan was one of many who attended the annual event, held in the basement of the Cancer Center. Many survivors brought family and friends and enjoyed carnival-style food and games. There was also face-painting for children along with a photo booth and bingo. Those in attendance could also get a free therapeutic massage.

“It’s a day to celebrate,” said Christine Kahl, education coordinator at the center and one of the event organizers. “We just try to make a fun day for them. We look forward to doing this every year.”

Kahl said an average of 100 people attend and the event has been going on for more than a decade.

Kahl said many of the cancer survivors have been patients of the Cancer Center, but this time they get to come to the facility with no worries.

Marcella Howard said that is important.

Howard was first diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2011 and still has a mass in her stomach. She said being around others who have been on similar journeys is important.

“It helps being around other people,” said Howard, 33, of New Albany. “It’s a way to make friendships. You know you are not alone. I know I have support.”

Howard said it’s also important to see the nurses and doctors “in a different light.”

Donna Barrett, 68, of New Albany, is a regular at the carnival. She is a seven-year survivor, and like most in attendance, she said she gains strength from others.

“I think this is wonderful,” she said. “It’s very helpful. It’s like a family and people get to share their experiences. We all need to help each other.”

Barrett said when you find out you have cancer, there are so many questions that having support from others “is so important.”

“When you first get it, you need to share that grief,” she said. “It can take so much out of you emotionally and physically.”

As Bunvan enjoyed the carnival, she said she also received a big lift recently from an organization called While You Heal, which provides human hair pieces for patients who have lost their hair due to chemotherapy.

“It’s real hair,” she said with a smile.

SO YOU KNOW

• It is estimated by the National Cancer Center that more than 1.66 million men and women will be diagnosed with cancer in 2013.

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