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Surviving Breast Cancer with Hope, Courage and Strength

October 8th, 2014

Hope, courage and strength—those are just three of the powerful words that truly captured the essence of 63 vibrant breast cancer survivors at St. Catherine’s Annual Breast Cancer Survivors Celebration Dinner. The dinner, held in the pink illuminated room at the Watermill in Smithtown, was attended by 150 individuals, including breast cancer survivors, their supportive family and friends, along with the team of health care professionals that have been with each survivor on their healing journey.  

As October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, St. Catherine of Siena uses the month as a platform to increase community awareness and education about the disease. Throughout the month, the medical center’s Community Outreach Program collaborates with more organizations to champion early mammography screenings. In addition, it is an opportunity for the division of breast health services to connect with its patients—and happily—with the very family and friends that have bridged the gap of support throughout their treatment process.

Breast Health Educator/Navigator Meiling Alsen, RN, moderated the evening and opened with a warm welcome to the many survivors and their supportive guests. She also thanked contributors who made the evening possible, including hospital administration for recognizing the importance of the celebratory event, and the many individuals who donated signature items for free raffle prizes.

“This evening is made to celebrate the optimism and the progress we have made in the fight against breast cancer—with family, friends and an expert breast health team—surviving breast cancer is possible,” said St. Catherine’s Executive Vice President/Chief Administrative Officer Paul J. Rowland. “I could not be more proud of this wonderful organization—I thank our breast health services team for providing expert care with the upmost compassion.”

Also in attendance to greet the survivors and their guests was St. Catherine’s Chief Operating Officer/Chief Nursing Officer Gara Edelstein, who acknowledged that breast cancer is a disease that affects everyone and highlighted the many medical treatment options now available to women and men. “As we celebrate each and every survivor, know we are here for you —this night is all for you.”

Thanks to donations from Designs By Clemente’s Flowers, Island Medical Physicians, Ilene Mauner, Panera Bread, Revlon Cosmetics, Vera Bradley and several staff members at St. Catherine’s departments, including, Care Management, Intensive Care Unit, Laboratory and the Operation Room, beautiful themed baskets were raffled for free to survivors. The evening would not have been as lively without musical renditions from John Tuzzolo, also known as Johnny Rae, who volunteered his time and talents, and kept survivors dancing throughout the evening.

Many of the survivors in attendance commented on how lovely an evening it was and that they look forward to celebrating with St. Catherine of Siena every year.  “We use the word survivor, but the smiles I see tonight—well, you are doing more than surviving—you are living,” said St. Catherine’s Director of Pastoral Care Sister Patricia McDonnell. Sister McDonnell greeted the survivors and their guest and articulated a moving poem of hope. “You have not chosen this path; the path has chosen you—please be encouraged knowing you have the strength to overcome and empower others.”

St. Catherine of Siena’s Breast Health Services includes a team of expert professionals, from diagnosis to treatment to support services; the staff is committed to the healing journey with each and every patient. For more information about St. Catherine’s Breast Health Services, call (631) 870-3444.

Photo (L-R): Director of Breast Imaging Anne Green, MD, Breast Health Educator Navigator Meiling Alsen, RN, St. Catherine’s EVP/CAO Paul J. Rowland, Director of Pastoral Care Sister Patricia McDonnell, St. Catherine’s Vice President of Finance John Pohlman, St. Catherine’s COO/CNO Gara Edelstein, Director of Breast Health Program June Lee, MD, and Administrative Director of Reconstructive Microsurgery Diana Yoon-Schwartz, MD.