To survive means to make it through hardship — physical, mental, emotional, or all three. But to survive cancer is so much more than that. Cancer survivors and their families have had to find courage when times were scary, resilience against all odds, and strength when it felt like there was no strength left.
Cancer survivors have faced the unthinkable, only to keep moving forward one day at a time.
If you're a cancer survivor or a loved one of a cancer survivor, it may sometimes seem like you're alone on this journey. However, you have an army behind you, including other loved ones, cancer survivors, and everyone here at Main Line Health.
June 5 is National Cancer Survivors Day. At Main Line Health, this annual day of celebration holds a special place in our hearts.
As Michael B. Dabrow, DO, MS, FACOI, FACP, Medical Director of Paoli Cancer Center and Medical Oncologist at Main Line Health, explains, "At the Cancer Center of Paoli Hospital, every day is Survivors Day. We mark the completion of treatments with the ringing of a bell. We honor personal achievements and family when patients come in for follow-up visits and in our Cancer Survivorship Program," he explains.
But National Cancer Survivors Day adds an extra element to the celebrations.
Survivors Day allows patients and caregivers to celebrate these efforts together, and that community effort raises everyone. – Dr. Michael Dabrow, DO, FACP, FACOI, Medical Director of Paoli Cancer Center and Medical Oncologist at Main Line Health
At Main Line Health, it is our honor to lift up our survivors and their loved ones. Here's how we do that — and how National Cancer Survivors Day plays a role in this journey.
Cancer Survivorship Starts at Day One
At Main Line Health, you're considered a cancer survivor from the very beginning. From diagnosis to remission to being cured — and every moment in between — you have lived the life of a cancer survivor.
"Survivorship empowers the human spirit to strive for the most meaning we can achieve from living, whether you are actively fighting cancer or cured of this disease," explains Dr. Dabrow. "I encourage patients early in their cancer journey to consider themselves survivors. To go through the necessary steps for treatment requires the kind of effort and spirit that survivorship represents."
Cancer survivorship is a concept that Dr. Dabrow is deeply familiar with. After completing his fellowship training in Hematology and Medical Oncology at the Fox Chase Cancer Center/Temple University in 1990, he has been practicing this subspecialty for nearly 32 years.
"I was always interested in biology and how normal functions can go awry," he recalls. This became even more personal to him when cancer hit home. "When my father died of colon cancer at age 48, my interest in oncology was formed."
Dr. Dabrow and the rest of the team at Main Line Health know that being a cancer survivor deserves special recognition every day. Still, Cancer Survivorship Day offers a special opportunity to come together as a hospital and as a community to honor cancer survivors and their loved ones.
Celebrating National Cancer Survivors Day at Main Line Health
June 5 is a celebration of cancer survivors and their loved ones, care teams, and everyone else involved in their journeys.
"To paraphrase Hillary Clinton, it takes a community to take care of cancer patients. Survivors Day allows that community to gather together, support each other, and celebrate together," says Dr. Dabrow.
Traditionally, National Cancer Survivors Day comes with a host of activities, from sharing survivor stories to indulging in celebratory meals to enjoying entertainment. The energy is high, and the morale is strong. Of course, like many other life events, COVID-19 put a temporary pause on in-person activities.
Paoli Hospital is an integral part of the local community, and we take our responsibility to serve the folks in the area with the best possible care close to home seriously," says Dr. Dabrow. "The last 2 or so years have been very trying for our staff as well as our patients. We have remained open and available to help our patients throughout this pandemic and continue to be involved in the care of more and more cancer patients right in their neighborhood, despite the COVID restrictions."
Despite these changes to usual festivities, the hope is to return to in-person events as soon as it's safe for everyone.
Going the Extra Mile for Cancer Patients
Cancer takes a significant toll on patients, families, and loved ones. It demands so much mentally, physically, and emotionally. At Main Line Health, our teams are committed to easing the burden as much as possible.
"Our staff always goes the extra mile for our patients," explains Dr. Dabrow. "Our nurses, pharmacists, and front office staff are forever trying to make the difficult road through cancer therapy as easy as possible for our patients."
This might be through supplemental services, like art therapy, music therapy, or massage therapy. Or, it might be through the support of our full-time social worker, who can provide emotional support or connect you with additional programs for cancer survivors. Or, it might be through an extra hug, words of encouragement, or a shoulder to cry on.
As for Dr. Dabrow, his career may be emotionally and physically challenging, but he wouldn't have it any other way. "The rewards of being the Medical Director of the Paoli Cancer Center are both outcome and process-based. From a professional standpoint, it's very satisfying to see some of our patients doing well and thriving in their lives after a diagnosis of cancer. And to achieve these goals, I get to work with a very skilled and dedicated staff."
Dr. Dabrow has been by the side of countless patients, navigating the ups and downs and in-betweens of cancer. While all of these moments hold a special place in his heart, one highlight stands out. "Attending the wedding of one of our young patients who was diagnosed with a rare lymphoma is at the top of my list," he says. "She recently had her fourth child — all girls! — and I look forward to seeing her again at our next in-person Survivors Day."
At Main Line Health, National Cancer Survivors Day allows everyone involved in our patients' journeys to come together and celebrate as one. On this National Cancer Survivors Day, we thank everyone involved in caring for our patients, including our care teams, the community, patients' loved ones, and, of course, our patients for their resilience, courage, and endless strength.