An evening to celebrate life

A night of laughter, shared experiences and beach attire were just some of the highlights of this year’s Cancer Survivors Dinner in the Grand Ballroom at the Marriott Beach Resort Friday evening. 

“Hit the beach. You’ve earned it,” was the theme of the annual dinner, organized by the Cayman Islands Cancer Society in partnership with Cancer Treatment Centers of America. The event drew a crowd of about 150 cancer survivors, some still battling the disease, along with their caregivers.  

“Tonight is intended to be a celebration of life, but when we gather like this, it’s only natural that we remember those who were unable to survive,” said Donovan Brummer, the new chairman of the Cancer Society.  

“Let’s all be conscious of those we know and love who were unable to be here with us this evening and keep them close in our hearts tonight,” he added. 

Mr. Brummer said he is the proud spouse of Colleen Brummer, a breast cancer survivor. In keeping with the theme, this year’s event featured beach attire and a guest speaker. After the opening remarks, guests mingled and were treated to a flowing buffet with barbecue chicken and Cayman style fish as the entrees 

Survivors’ stories 

“It’s good that we have a God because if it wasn’t for Him I wouldn’t be talking to you. I had it in my right breast and when I found it, I had to prepare,” said Ruby Myles, whose breast cancer is currently in remission. She first found out she had breast cancer in 2000.  

“There’s a lot of us, and these dinners are a good thing. If I can help anyone, I’m willing to tell everybody. All you do when you find you have it is do something about it. Don’t wait too long before you do something about it because that’s when you ruin your life,” said Mrs. Myles. 

“It’s a fighting job, but you’ve got to fight, and I have a husband who is very supportive of me,” she added. Her husband, Turner Myles, attended the dinner as her supporter; the pair have been married for 25 years. 

A 6-year-old girl who has been battling brain cancer since she was 4 was also at the dinner with her parents. Hundreds of supporters in Cayman had turned out for little Hannah Meeson last September at a Heroes for Hannah event to raise money for pediatric cancer research to find a cure for Hannah and kids like her.  

“We just had an MRI scan and they couldn’t find any disease, so she is officially disease-free right now … We had a little trip to Disney [World] and then England to see family and now we’re home and she’s enjoying being home,” said Hannah’s mother Gaylene Meeson.  

“It’s the first time we’ve been home without an impending chemotherapy appointment looming. Right now, we don’t have another until early August,” she added. 

Mrs. Meeson said Hannah will attend a summer camp for six nights this month at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. During her stay she will be take part in camp activities such as rock-climbing and zip-lining. 

Focus on health 

After the dinner, Carolyn Lammersfeld, vice president of integrative medicine at Cancer Treatment Centers of America, gave a speech on the importance of “clean eating” during cancer treatment.  

“With clean eating and cancer we focus on whole foods, and we try to reduce processed foods,” said Ms. Lammersfeld, co-author of “Cancer Nutrition and Recipes for Dummies.” 

“The primary focus of my book is actually, hopefully, to help people who are being treated for cancer to eat healthy and maintain good nutrition. But again, it’s also good for risk reduction after treatment,” said Ms. Lammersfeld.  

She said that “the better you’re able to eat during treatment” the better patients will maintain immune function and may also be able to reduce side effects from chemotherapy like nausea. 

She also said that about one-third of cancers may be related to diet and lifestyle and that maintaining a healthy body weight is also very important.  

“We want cancer survivors to do everything they can within their control to reduce the risk of a recurrence of another cancer or even heart disease.” 

She also mentioned a newly released study based on 65,000 people over a seven-year period in the U.K.  

“What they found was that people who ate at least seven servings of fruit and vegetables were at a 42 percent reduction of risk of dying from many things like heart disease and cancer. A lot of times I say if that was a pill, everybody would take it,” she said. 

Jennifer Weber, operations manager of the Cancer Society and a driving force behind the annual dinner, said, “This event is always one of the most fun events of the whole year for us [at the Cancer Society]. We try to stay upbeat about everything, we try to look for the positive, but let’s face it, sometimes our work can be sad. 

“This is a special party for cancer survivors, and there’s kind of a mystique about it. It seems like people really want to get in the doors to see what’s happening here, and so that makes it feel even more special for the survivors,” said Ms. Weber.  

“This event could be sad; it could be about the battles these people have gone through, but instead we choose to make it a celebration of life. This is a happy occasion; everyone can remember what they’ve been through, but they can also celebrate the fact that they made it through,” she said. 

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Nigel and Gaylene Meeson with their daughter Hannah, who is now ‘officially disease-free,’ they are happy to report. For more photos from the Cancer Survivors Dinner, turn to page 10. – PHOTO: SAMANTHA BONHAM
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