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Health Center Today, July 11, 2011

Celebrating Life

By Chris Kaminski

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Norma Greene was first diagnosed with breast cancer and treated at the UConn Health Center in 1993. Thirteen years later, her breast cancer came back and she was once again treated at the Health Center. Today, Norma is cancer free and a true definition of the word survivor.

Greene and more than 450 others recently celebrated a Cancer Survivors Day event hosted by UConn’s Carole and Ray Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center at the Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington.

This year marks the 24th anniversary of National Cancer Survivors Day which is celebrated in hundreds of communities throughout the U.S. and Canada. According to the National Cancer Institute, there are 12 million cancer survivors in the U.S. today. A cancer survivor is defined as anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer—from initial diagnosis through treatment and beyond.

“We gather today to celebrate three gifts,” said Dr. Pramod K. Srivastava, director of the Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center. “The very precious gift of your life; the gift of loved ones who have supported you on this journey; and the gift of the medical professionals and scientists who help us to understand and treat this disease,” said Srivastava.

The theme of the event was “Hawaiian Luau” and guests were entertained with Hawaiian music, trivia and history; hula dancing demonstrations; bingo; as well as Reiki, Tai Chi lessons, massages, and other activities. One-year cancer survivor, Donna Matthews, found the event to be very relaxing and thoroughly enjoyable. “I work hard every day and it was very nice to be able to enjoy the gorgeous scenery and the hula dancing demonstrations,” said Matthews.

Pam Lacko, an ovarian cancer survivor, also enjoyed the festivities and the opportunity to connect with others who are fighting the disease. “I met another woman who is undergoing ovarian cancer treatment and I shared my experiences and offered her words of encouragement, support and hope,” said Lacko.

Joseph Fazzino from Virtus Mutual Funds, the title sponsor of the Cancer Survivors Day, presented a check for more than $27,000 during the event. “Virtus Mutual Funds chose the UConn Health Center as the recipient of this donation because it’s important to us that the funds be used to help people that are going through a difficult journey,” said Fazzino.

Cancer is not a stranger to Lisa Parenteau. Her mother-in-law was treated for cancer at the Health Center in the 1990’s. Today, her mother is being treated. “When my mom was diagnosed, I insisted that she be treated at the Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center. I knew from past experience that she would be in good hands,” said Parenteau. She was also thankful for the services available at the Cancer Center such as the William Raveis-American Cancer Society Patient Navigator Program. “The navigator was very helpful with many issues, particularly with finding rides for my mom when I was unable to get her to the Health Center myself,” added Parenteau.

For more information about the treatments and services offered at the Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center, visit