Star Group-Veterans Helping Veterans holds ceremony for cancer survivors
By BRITTANY FHOLER
In honor of June being National Cancer Survivors Month, Star Group-Veterans Helping Veterans held their second annual ceremony recognizing and honoring cancer survivors and those who have passed away at the Star Group-VHV headquarters Saturday morning.
The ceremony was organized by John Cook, with SG-VHV, and featured cancer survivors as guest speakers, sharing their stories.
The guest speakers included Star Group-Veterans Helping Veterans member Dra’ Hill, Julie Moser and Barbara Mims, who each shared their experiences with cancer.
Hill was first diagnosed with Stage 4 prostate cancer in 2003 and underwent surgery where his prostate was removed, but he did not receive radiation or chemotherapy, and the cells ended up not being removed completely. In 2018, Hill said he realized something was off and his Prostate Specific Antigen number was elevated. He underwent 36 sessions of radiation.
He said that two or three months ago, his PET scan showed his PSA number at 1.8, and it had risen to 2.0 by Saturday.
“They can’t find where the cells are,” Hill said. “That’s the problem. Cancer is kind of slick. It’ll hide until it gets so bad to it takes you out. Sometimes you can catch it early. Sometimes it gets hidden until it gets to three stages, and then you start really started having problems. Sometimes it’s too late.”
Hill added that men need to “not be hard headed” and make sure to go see the doctor and stay on top of their health.
Julie Moser, founder and executive director of Pink Warrior Angels, shared her story next. Moser was diagnosed with breast cancer stage 2 at 39 back in 2013, after finding a concerning mark on her breast in the shower the night before her husband was set to leave for his third deployment. A visit to the doctor revealed she had three tumors. She spent the following two and a half years undergoing a double mastectomy, reconstruction and chemotherapy that landed her in the hospital multiple times. By the five-year mark, Moser said she had undergone a total hysterectomy and estrogen blockers and had started Pink Warrior Angels to give back and help others going through a similar journey to hers. By the seven-year mark, Moser said she found another lump on top of her breast implant. Her cancer had returned after seven years in remission. In 2018, her mother had been diagnosed with the exact same cancer as her. Moser said they each underwent testing to see if they shared a gene mutation in common. They did not.
“Nothing makes sense, but as I learned from my friend who gets diagnosed, and her cancer is triple negative, or I have another friend that’s stage zero and went 12 years before now she’s stage four- the craziness circle that happens to educate and remember to come to places like here to share our story for those who may be not experiencing this, but you might have a friend who might experience it, to encourage them to please go get checked, to encourage them to talk to you, because while I don’t have all the answers, I know exactly how you feel at that moment,” Moser said.
Moser’s advice to people was to not wait and to make sure to not live with regrets.
“Take the trip,” Moser said. “Live. Live. All I can say is plan it a year out if you have to and save hat money, but never stop living.”
Barbara Mims shared her story of being diagnosed with colon cancer in 2003, the same cancer her father would be diagnosed, at Stage 4, with a year later when Mims received the news that she was cancer free. Mims added that she is currently 19 years cancer free.
“You have to pay attention to your body,” Mims said. “If something’s wrong, don’t just put it off.”
Each speaker was presented with a certificate and a small flower arrangement as a show of recognition from Star Group-Veterans Helping Veterans to honor them for their strength and courage.
Star Group-VHV also paid tribute to those who have passed away from cancer, with a vacant table set for one “symbolizing the fact that some of our loved ones are missing from this gap.”
The table was small, symbolizing the frailty of a single patient, sometimes alone in the fight against his or her disease.
The tablecloth was white, symbolic of the medical profession: doctors, nurses and practitioners and researchers who have helped fight the battle for their lives.
The single rose signified the enduring love of their families and friends and the strength of the patient’s will to find that disease that ultimately claimed many of them.
A pink ribbon in the vase represented the ribbons the families wore on the lapels of millions who support and continue to search for the cure not only of breast cancer, but for other cancers as well.
The slice of lemon on plate reminds of the bitter battle against cancer, which is a deadly disease and a battle that will be fought by over a million patients this year.
The salt sprinkled on the plate reminds of the countless tears of personal anguish that will be shed by family members and friends who will lose a loved one. The glass was inverted in memory of those people who are not present to join in the celebration of their successes. The candle represents the light of hope for the lives and the hearts in all.