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Baylor Scott & White, AdventHealth host Cancer Survivor Day


Cove Leader-Press 


Baylor Scott and White Cancer Center and AdventHealth Central Texas partnered to hold their annual Cancer Survivor Day celebration in front of the Killeen Cancer Center. 

June is National Cancer Survivor Month, and June 6 marked National Cancer Survivor Day, which recognizes the millions of adults and children in the U.S. who have been diagnosed with cancer. 

Cancer survivors and their supporters gathered to hear from one of the oncologists at the Cancer Center as well as cancer survivor Hyman Izbicki, AdventHealth Central Texas CEO Kevin Roberts, and Rachel Dias, Vice President of Baylor Scott & White Radiation Oncology. 

Prior to the speakers, Copperas Cove Mayor Dan Yancey read a proclamation naming June 6 Cancer Survivor Day, as did Dawn Hale with the Baylor Scott & White Cancer Center, on behalf of the City of Killeen.

Hyman Izbicki, one of the cancer survivors at the event, said that he has lived longer than his original prognosis. He thanked the oncologists and the staff at the center who are always cheerful and help every time he has come for a treatment cycle.

“There is no magic bullet,” Izbicki said, adding that the most important factors for his survival have been his wife, family and friends. 

“It is those people who lift you up when you’re down and make you feel like going on. The other thing that I think is most important is some kind of exercise even if it’s just a few minutes a day. The more I’ve sat when I first got sick, the worse I felt. The more I started moving around, the better I felt.”

AdventHealth Central Texas CEO Kevin Roberts said that area residents benefit from the joint venture between his facility and the Baylor Scott & White system.

“This year, nearly two million Americans will receive a mind-numbing diagnosis of cancer, and 139,000 of those are Texans. Survival rates from cancer have been steadily improving over the years. The lack of screening and treatment during the pandemic created some setbacks and that’s why we’re here today, to celebrate survival.” 

He talked the role of faith in a patient’s healing.  

“Our missions are very interwoven with a purpose to extend the healing ministry of Christ. And we believe that God’s power is connected to the healing process, even in cancer. I can’t explain how it works. But I know that it does.” 

The theme of the celebration was superheroes, alluded to by Rachel Dias, Vice President of  Operations for Radiation Oncology at Baylor Scott & White.

“As part of national cancer survivor’s day, we’re here to celebrate the superheroes who have and will survive cancer during their lifetimes. Our network of cancer survivors here at Baylor Scott and White Health, and AdventHealth of Central Texas is a strong passionate group of superheroes who have displayed bravery at every step in the cancer journey.” 

Dias said that with significant advances in cancer treatment in the past few years, nearly 70 percent of everyone diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. will survive more than five years. 

Dr. Sripriya Santhanam is one of the Baylor Scott & White oncologists who is in the trenches daily alongside cancer patients battling the disease. 

She said that although many cancers are preventable due to lifestyle choices, tremendous breakthroughs in cancer treatments have been made to include prevention and detection. 

She talked about the challenges that a “staggering number” of survivors face.

“We have millions of survivors in the United States that need rehabilitation and help along these journeys and their families do as well. As you know, cancer brings in its wake a lot of distraction, emotional, financial; there’s a tremendous fear and there’s a real possibility of second cancers in our cancer survivors.”

She iterated the strain on relationships and on jobs that cancer survivors face, such as when they lose insurance. 

“We really need to acknowledge as a community that we need a lot of help in this field, because we have more and more survivors and we need to find ways and means to help them.”

Dr. Santhanam said that when she was training 20 years ago, only traditional chemotherapy and radiation therapy were available for patients. 

“Now we are talking about molecular or targeted therapy, immunotherapy, biologics, and proton pump radiation, just so much being done and is all available to our patients. 

“Of course, we do have resources that we tap into in surrounding areas such as clinical trials, so our patients really get everything. We are able to provide that because we have enormous support from the hospital from our staff. 

“I do want to just say a few words to the survivors. When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember, you haven’t. Whenever you find yourself doubting if you can go on, just remember how everything you have faced and all the battles you have won, and all the things you’ve overcome.”

The cancer survivors present were celebrated, and given care bags courtesy of Pink Warrior Angels, a Copperas Cove based nonprofit organization which provides assistance to survivors of all types of cancers. 

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