Coasters for Cancer, survivor stories at Great Adventure
Some people go to amusement parks thinking they could never survive the roller coasters , but when you survive cancer, the biggest thrill rides become a piece of cake. Sunday morning I was lucky enough to host "Coasters For Cancer" at Great Adventure, where a new hand painted car celebrating the survivors would be unveiled.
This was a thrill for me on a few levels. Walking in I was having flashbacks to when I was a teenager picking up garbage in the same area of the park where I would now be emceeing from. We even stored the pans and brooms under the "Runaway Train" where the survivor car would be running.
Secondly, my wife Deneen is a 13 year breast cancer survivor. We found out when she went for a postpartum checkup, so to be standing in front of over 200 survivors and hear their stories was truly mind blowing. It's the day you dream of when you first find out you're going to be dealing with this horrible disease.
Also in attendance were Dr. John Bonamo, the Executive Vice President, Chief Medical and Quality Officer. RWJBarnabas Health, Dr. Steven LiButti, the Director of the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and Senior Vice President, Oncology Services RWJ/Barnabas Health, and John Winkler, President of Six Flags Great Adventure.
Among the stories shared was that of 17-year-old Johnny Volpe. On May 21, 2009, 2 days after his 7th birthday, John was diagnosed with a form of Pre-B cell lymphoma.
He’s been treated at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, an RWJBarnabas Health facility, in New Brunswick.
From 2009 to 2011, his treatment included chemotherapy and cranial and spinal radiation. He is currently in a survivorship program called LITE at Rutgers Cancer Institute that educates pediatric cancer survivors about the late effects of cancer treatment and other concerns and challenges specific to this population.
Today, he is a junior in high school and he has aspirations to attend a culinary arts school in the future. When you're around these survivors and hear their stories, you come to believe that there's no greater accomplishment than beating cancer. When you talk to the doctors at RWJBarnabas Health, you believe it can be and is being done for more and more people every day.
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