Christina Marino, R.N.

Cancer Survivors, Families and Staff Come Together to Celebrate Life

Joining with hundreds of other hospitals, support groups and cancer-related organizations around the world that observe National Cancer Survivors Day in their communities, the UCLA hematology and stem cell transplantation unit at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center hosted its annual Celebration of Life event on July 16. The purpose of the ceremony is to show that, after a cancer diagnosis, patients with hematologic malignancies can continue to lead fulfilling lives.

“It’s an event that inspires and motivates all of us, from patients currently under-going rigorous cancer treatments, to those who have survived cancer and are in remission, to the families affected, to the physicians and hospital staff,” says Christina Marino, R.N., a clinical nurse specialist in the unit who was part of the team that coordinated the event. “The event gives us all a chance to see positive outcomes as patients get better, leave the hospital and return to their normal lives.”

UCLA Provides Resources for
Cancer Survivors

UCLA is one of only seven NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers nationwide to be part of the Lance Armstrong Foundation Survivorship Center of Excellence Network. The UCLA-LIVESTRONG™ Survivorship Center of Excellence helps patients navigate the transition from patient to survivor by focusing on their physical, psychosocial and emotional needs and addressing long-term and late effects of cancer treatment.

During this year’s event, the unit’s medical director, Gary Schiller, M.D., introduced and explained the history of the program to participants. Former UCLA patient and cancer survivor Chris Ayers, who has written a book about his experiences with the disease, described how he survived leukemia. He signed copies of his book, The Daily Zoo: Keeping the Doc tor Away with a Drawing a Day, which he wrote and illustrated based on his experience with the disease. Patients, survivors and their family members also had opportunities to speak about their experiences with cancer, from diagnosis, to treatment to remission.

“The most powerful part of the event is when patients and family members share their positive experiences because with some types of cancer diagnoses, long term-remission and survival rates are very low, even when patients receive the best known standard of care,” Christina explains.