Survivors provide encouragement

Tribune Chronicle
CHAMPION — The message at a recent event was that you are a survivor the moment you are diagnosed with cancer.
More than 200 cancer survivors gathered at the fourth annual Hope Center for Cancer Care’s Survivor Day held recently at Champion Presbyterian Church.
Survivors — from those who battled cancer for a few months to others who survived for 30 to 40 years — shared their stories of encouragement.
Anna Marie Holt, event coordinator with the center, said the event is to celebrate survivors and all those who have helped them.
Holt said there are 700 celebrations like the local one held across the world and 14 million survivors.
“Today we celebrate all there is about each and every one of you. You are certainly special in our hearts. You are people who have done extraordinary things,” she said.
Holt said the veteran survivors can help inspire the rookies.
“Remember you are a survivor the moment you are diagnosed,” Holt said.
The event included a butterfly release. The butterfly is the symbol of going through changes in life.
“A butterfly is a survivor like you — very strong. The goal is to break free of that cocoon and fly,” Holt said.
The butterfly release was started in the 1980s at Trumbull Memorial Hospital.
“Like a butterfly, we go through hard times and then emerge more beautiful then we thought. All of you are our little miracles,” she said.
Barbara Chionchio of Cortland, a 42-year cancer survivor, said the event is very heartfelt.
“I could cry tears of joy that this many people have survived such a devastating disease,” she said.
Chionchio said she shares her personal story whenever she can.
“Medicine has come so far from when I had cancer. There will be a lot more 42-year survivors because of medicine,” she said.
Chionchio said God helped her through her cervical cancer.
“I was scared when they told me that I had cancer and had five children. I didn’t know whether I was going to live or die and I prayed to God that if my husband would remarry it would be someone who would love and be kind to my children. It didn’t happen. It wasn’t my time to go,” she said.
Amanda Joy Hall, a seven-year cancer survivor who battled three occurrences of cancer, said, “I let people know there is hope. I do what I can and hope that by sharing my story it will benefit other people.
George Sipka of Newton Falls, a two-year cancer survivor, said he feels good and that he’s thankful to be able to get around and do things.
Survivors at the event wore pins indicating the number of years they have been survivors.
Karen Hurst, a six-year cancer survivor, said she was amazed by all the cancer survivors who attended.
“There is hope for everyone. It is amazing,” she said.