Elgin, IL - It was an emotional and inspirational evening as over 100 patients, families, friends and staff gathered at the Presence Saint Joseph Meadows Regional Cancer Center on June 24 for the annual Cancer Survivor Celebration. The event is a celebration of the power of healing and hope, as well as an opportunity for physicians and clinicians to honor patients and the families that support them.
“We have walked our own personal journey into new life,” said Pastor Don Shank, a cancer survivor and Presence Saint Joseph Hospital Chaplain. “We celebrate the joy and beauty of today!”
It was a bittersweet ceremony for cancer survivor and radiation oncologist Dr. Jeffrey Shafer, who is retiring after 25 years of service at Presence Saint Joseph.
“When I was told I had prostate cancer, my first thought was ‘dead man walking’. That was 11 years ago,” said Dr. Shafer. “Dealing with my own vulnerability was a shock. I feel so fortunate to have been cared for by my colleagues here at Presence Saint Joseph Hospital. They are the best and I say that with my life on the line.”
Dr. Shafer praised his patients noting that his role is to provide the best medical care, but that is only one part of healing. “There are so many important co-factors such as your family, friends, community, and especially those intangibles, mental attitude and the spiritual element,” said Dr. Shafer. “We’ve talked, laughed, cried and prayed together. You are the heroes!”
Pat Townley of Hampshire was quick to wrap Dr. Shafer is a huge hug and through tears gushed that without Dr. Shafer, she would have not finished her cancer treatment 18 years ago. “My heart has a special space for Dr. Shafer. I can’t possibly put into words what he means to me. From day one, this sweet and gentle doctor gave me comfort and security and I knew I was in good hands,” said Townley.
Dr. Chilakamarri Yeshwant, oncology/hematology, told the crowd he has been amazed by the tremendous progress in the treatment and understanding of cancer in his lifetime. He highlighted the “tremendous explosion” in monoclonal antibodies that provide very specific treatment directed to cancer cells and advances in less toxic treatments that reduce side effects.
And while the science excites him, Dr. Yeshwant acknowledged that it is his patients who truly inspire him. “Smiles and hugs from my patients are the reason I get up every morning,” said Dr. Yeshwant.
At the end of a joyous evening featuring tasty appetizers, desserts, drinks, raffle prizes and camaraderie, Dr. Courtney Coke, Medical Director of the Meadows Regional Cancer Center, had a special message for patients as he said, “Thank you for allowing me to do God’s work through you.”
The Bob & Edna Meadows Regional Cancer Care Center at Presence Saint Joseph Hospital – Elgin provides patients with the highest level of technology at every stage of their cancer care. The Center features a spacious infusion center, the area’s highest level of radiation technology, oncology support services, nutrition therapy, a nurse navigator program, and cancer rehabilitation. An environment of healing and hope, the Center has been awarded the coveted Community Cancer Center designation from the American College of Surgeons’ Commission on Cancer.
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About Presence Saint Joseph Hospital- Elgin
Presence Saint Joseph Hospital in Elgin is known for providing leading-edge technologies and holistic care with compassion for the individual. We offer a comprehensive range of high quality preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic services including acute inpatient care, outpatient care, home health, and educational outreach programs. Recognized for advanced heart, orthopedics, stroke, cancer and rehabilitation services; Presence Saint Joseph is a part of Presence Health.
About Presence Health
Presence Health is the largest Catholic health system based in Illinois, created in November 2011 through the merger of Provena Health and Resurrection Health Care. With more than 150 sites of care, including 12 hospitals and 27 nursing and senior facilities, Presence Health more than 20,000 employees, 4,000 medical professionals and a revenue base of $2.5 billion.