Lauren Daniels did not expect to become a cancer patient at 35. She thought breast cancer happened when you were older — not when you had three children to raise.
Now, three years and three surgeries later, the Scottsdale mom is cancer-free and working to provide support to other mothers battling cancer.
Daniels will be one of several cancer survivors to celebrate the National Cancer Survivors Day on Sunday. The Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at Scottsdale Healthcare will hold a free party Sunday afternoon for survivors, friends and family to commemorate the event.
Sometimes calling yourself a “survivor” is bittersweet, Daniels said.
“I didn’t want to be considered a cancer survivor,” she said. “Now I see it as a celebration.”
And attending events like Relay for Life and Race for the Cure can be uplifting, she said. “You can’t help but feel strength in numbers,” she said.
The National Cancer Survivors Day is held each year on the first Sunday in June. It was created 19 years ago by Richard Bloch, the cofounder of H&R Block, who wanted to demonstrate that being diagnosed with cancer was not a death sentence.
“It’s to bring attention to the fact that a boatload of people are surviving cancer these days, and we need to recognize that is the case,” said Susan Brown, associate vice president of the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center. “These people worked hard to be survivors.”
Scottsdale Healthcare has been celebrating Survivors Day for five years, and each year 300 to 400 people turn out for the event, Brown said.
The celebration also lifts up the staff at the cancer center, Brown said.
“On Survivors Day we recognize and see people who have done well, and for whom we might have made a little bit of difference,” she said.
This year the party’s theme is “The Sky’s the Limit,” and the keynote speaker will be former astronaut and cancer survivor Karol “Bo” Bobko.
During his time as a NASA astronaut, Bobko flew three missions. He now works in Silicon Valley, Calif., at a NASA simulation lab.
Bobko said he was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma 13 years ago.
“Basically it hasn’t slowed me down since,” he said.
During his speech at Cancer Survivors Day, Bobko said he would talk about his battle with cancer, along with some first-person accounts of going through a shuttle launch.
“Most people don’t have a clue,” he said, adding that the real experience is different from what is seen on a television broadcast.
If you go
What: Fifth annual Cancer Survivors Day, “The Sky’s The Limit,” featuring astronaut Karol “Bo” Bobko When: 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday Where: Scottsdale Healthcare’s Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center, 10460 N. 92nd St. Cost: Free; registration requested Info: Visit www.shc.org or call (480) 882-4636
Karol “Bo” Bobko
• Born in New York in 1937
•Member of the first graduating class of the Air Force Academy
•Became a NASA astronaut in September 1969
•Flew three missions: Challenger, Discovery and Atlantis
•Diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma 13 years ago •Currently program manager for the NASA Ames Simulation Laboratories