News & Events

Cancer Survivors Day brings out the best in all

October 11, 2013

Messages of overcoming prostate, skin and lung cancer is not unusual at Backus Cancer Survivors Day.

But that message coming from one person, especially former UConn Huskies men’s basketball coach Jim Calhoun, was surprising – and uplifting.

Calhoun was the keynote speaker at the event Oct. 5, which drew more than 500 cancer survivors and their friends and loved ones under a tent outside Backus Hospital. His message was inspirational, ranging from him biking 102 miles to and from his radiation treatments to his dedication to living life to its fullest every day, especially when it comes to his grandchildren.

“If you get up every day and truly believe it will be the best day you ever had, I don’t know if it will be, but it will be close,” Calhoun said.

Although not as famous, cancer survivor Elizabeth LaFlamme-Baker’s speech was no less motivating. At age 28, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She not only beat the disease, but four months ago gave birth to her son Vincent, who she proudly held in front of the crowd. Tears came to peoples’ eyes as she told her story of overcoming cancer, having a baby and living life to its fullest.

LaFlamme-Baker said Backus saved her life.

“From start to finish, this process has seemed never-ending, grueling and exhausting,” she said.  “But from Dr. Kapur and his staff, Missy, Annie, to Dr. Karowski and her staff, Dr. Pathy, all the nurses at Ambulatory Care and the Radiation Therapy Unit, have all helped to make the experience much less traumatizing than it already was.  I am extremely grateful for all of them.”

Backus President and Chief Executive Officer Dave Whitehead, a cancer survivor himself, spoke about the recent announcement by Hartford HealthCare that it is affiliating with the Memorial Sloan-Kettering (MSK) Cancer Alliance, and how as a Harford HealthCare partner Backus will have the opportunity to offer world-renowned MSK protocols, treatments and clinical trials in a community hospital setting.

Whitehead said the MSK announcement and the recent addition of The Boutique at Backus are two examples of how the Backus Cancer Center continues to build on its reputation as the best local cancer center in the region.

“We will be getting early stage medicine that is not available to everyone else,” said Dinesh Kapur, MD, Medical Director of the Backus Cancer Center.

Backus’ James O’Dea, PhD, MBA, thanked all the clinicians and everyone associated with the Backus Cancer Center for all they do to provide high quality care, in the community hospital setting.

“There have been great gains in our ongoing fight against these diseases over the last several decades,” O’Dea said. “We are curing cancers with innovative and targeted therapies, cancers that were once fatal, we have been successful in turning into manageable, chronic conditions.  And we are preventing more cancers and recurrences of cancer than ever before.  We have the courage of our patients and their loved ones, and the remarkable efforts of all the doctors, surgeons, researchers, and our staff to thank for that.”

LaFlamme-Baker agreed, and provided a final message to the crowd.

“There’s always hope,” she said.  “If you’re fighting cancer today, if you are a survivor or a caregiver, you have to have hope.  At times, it seems to be the only thing we have.  Don’t let cancer take that from you.”