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Giving cancer the boot
Cancer center event unites patients, survivors
Emanuel Cancer Center
Marian Jessee grabs a frozen treat outside of the Emanuel Cancer Center at their "Give Cancer the Boot" event. - photo by ANGELINA MARTIN/The Journal

The Emanuel Cancer Center wasn’t even built yet when Turlock resident Ruth Cunningham won her battle with lymphoma in 2011, but that didn’t stop her from socializing with other survivors at the Center’s “Give Cancer the Boot” event on Wednesday.

“I do Relay for Life, I go to Cancer Night Out, and I look forward to this event, too, every year,” Cunningham said. “I like to go anywhere that I can meet other people who have beat cancer or are going through it.”

In honor of National Cancer Survivors Day on June 3, Emanuel Cancer Center hosted the celebration for cancer survivors, cancer advocates and cancer caregivers. The annual ice cream social event highlights that beating cancer is a team effort, the center’s Assistant Director Jenn Spillers said.

“There are sick patients, but we’re all in this fight to get them well and you see the successes of that here today,” she said.

Survivors and patients shared their stories with one another and mingled with the doctors and nurses who have given them care, all over a cool treat from Rita’s Italian Ice. While the event celebrates those who have fought or are fighting the terrible disease, Dr. Jincy Clement said that the day also raises awareness for others about the dangers of cancer.

“Patients will bring their friends and family to these events and give them the information, too,” Clement said. “They remind their loved ones to go get a mammogram, go get checked out. It’s easier and sometimes more helpful to hear those reminders from a friend than hearing it from a doctor.”

The Emanuel Cancer Center offers a variety of support groups for patients and families, including groups for adult cancer patients, groups for kids ages five to 17, beauty techniques for women who are undergoing radiation and chemotherapy and a group for young adults ages 18-39 who have been diagnosed with cancer.

Events like Wednesday’s and support groups are often critical aspects of recovery, Spillers said.

“It gives them the chances to interact with other patients or people who have gone through the same experiences as them,” she said. “It’s so heartfelt because you know everyone is on this journey and fight together, and the success of it is amazing.”

On any given day, around 54 patients pass through the cancer center’s infusion room, and anywhere from 1,200 to 1,500 patients are treated each month. While Cunningham received her cancer treatment just down the road at Emanuel Medical Center nearly a decade ago, she makes it a point to visit the new facility as often as she can.

“I think everybody who has gone through cancer is in tune with each other,” she said. “We’re always concerned for one another.”

When she meets others going through the battle that she is all too familiar with, Cunningham always gives them the same advice.

“I tell them that if I’m a survivor and have been clear of cancer this long, then they can do it too,” she said.