The “Growing Stronger Together” celebration was had for the first time at Kennestone’s Garden of Courage, said Kathi Mansfield, manager of oncology services for WellStar.
WellStar Cancer Network, Northwest Georgia Oncology Centers and The American Cancer Society have partnered since the 1990s to present the event at other venues in past years.
Each survivor received a potted plant from Home Depot and bookmark with embedded flower seeds from the WellStar Cancer Network.
A violinist played as people enjoyed drinks and food from a buffet, as well as pieces of a three-tiered cake that was baked by cancer survivor Geannine Mauldin, who owns a custom cake shop called Appealing Creations.
Mansfield said the local group of cancer survivors are very active and love to share their stories.
“When patients come to this event, they don’t feel alone anymore,” Mansfield said.
A time to celebrate
At a small table, a couple of women smiled as they shared stories.
Pat Harris, 53, was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2011 and finished treatment in March 2012.
“I am a survivor. Every day is a blessing,” Harris said.
Harris said she came to the event from Riverdale, which is south of Atlanta, to get information and education.
“Anything I can learn to be mindful of my body,” Harris said.
Verlez Wells, 60, who runs the Kennesaw franchise of the shipping service Goin’ Postal, was diagnosed in October 2012 with breast cancer and is still in treatment.
Wells said she enjoys meeting other cancer patients through these social events.
“You instantly get a connection with all these other people,” Wells said.
Both of the women said they came to support a friend, Pat Jester.
During Saturday’s program, Jester read a letter she wrote to cancer.
Wells said she was part of Jester’s support system, and now relies on Jester for support in battling her own disease.
Doctors not immune
David Parks, a head and neck surgeon at Kennestone, regularly performs surgeries to remove cancer growths and was a former chairman of the oncology program.
Parks has lived in Marietta for 24 years and has a long history of attending the annual celebration as a representative of WellStar.
This year is his first time attending as a survivor.
A year ago, Parks received his last treatment for colon cancer.
“I am so thankful every morning when my feet hit the floor,” Parks said.
One resident who lives near the Square said he came to Saturday’s gathering for a chance to see his physicians on a personal level.
Wayne Felix, 64, was diagnosed in July of 200 with esophageal cancer that moved to his lungs.
After several rounds of chemotherapy, he is now in remission for the second time.
Felix said the staff of the WellStar network, spread over five counties, knows exactly how to deal with patients and respond to people’s needs.
“You felt like you were being treated well,” Felix said.