The Memorial Hospital Chief of Organizational Excellence attaches paper butterflies with the names of cancer survivors to ornamental branches during the hospital's National Cancer Survivors Day tea party Sunday, June 2. The secular holiday honors the almost 14 million cancer survivors in the US, as well as those still battling the disease.

Photo by Andie Tessler

The Memorial Hospital Chief of Organizational Excellence attaches paper butterflies with the names of cancer survivors to ornamental branches during the hospital's National Cancer Survivors Day tea party Sunday, June 2. The secular holiday honors the almost 14 million cancer survivors in the US, as well as those still battling the disease.

TMH honors cancer survivors in Craig

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A tiny paper butterfly bears the name of a cancer survivor and the number of years he has been cancer-free. The butterfly was one of many adorning ornamental branches in a decorative vase that will be displayed at TMH as part of its celebration of National Cancer Survivors Day.

— It was a cozy and rather unique tea party. In the center of a long table and surrounded by small paper butterflies, a large decorative vase dominated the conference room at The Memorial Hospital on Sunday afternoon in Craig.

In the vase, attached to ornamental branches, were paper butterflies inscribed with the names of Craig cancer survivors and loved ones battling the deadly disease.

The modest party was organized to celebrate the 26th annual National Cancer Survivors Day, which is observed on the first Sunday of June in recognition of the nearly 14 million cancer survivors in the United States.

The secular holiday was the brainchild of Vail native Merrill G. Hastings who wanted to honor his wife, Priscilla, who is a breast cancer survivor. The first NCSD was held June 5, 1988, and now is celebrated in more than 100 countries.

“We want to show the world that life after a cancer diagnosis can be meaningful, productive and even inspiring,” reads the mission statement of the NCSD Foundation. “There is life after cancer.”

TMH honored that mission statement Sunday.

“This is the first year that we’ve done something for NCSD,” TMH Chief of Organizational Excellence Jennifer Riley said. “This is just our way of recognizing these people and honoring them.”

TMH has been expanding the services it provides for patients since relocating to a new and larger facility in 2009, including oncology and cancer treatments in its infusion clinic.

“This is pretty new for us, having the technology and facilities to provide cancer treatments here in the community,” Riley said.

The infusion clinic currently is staffed with four oncology nurse specialist chemotherapy/biotherapy certified nurses, oversight by local physicians and a visiting oncologist from St. Mary’s.

“The really important thing was just having the dedicated space,” Infusion Nurse Marie Kettle said. “Now we’re able to have a really advanced facility and do more for our patients.”

Roughly 68 percent of people diagnosed with cancer will survive; one can only hope that number will rise until there is no longer a reason to celebrate NCSD. Until then, the first Sunday of June still will be a day of victory for anyone whose life has been impacted by cancer.

“Everyone’s important,” TMH Chief Operating Officer Joyce Hein said. “Now that we have this here in the community, people can have easier access to the care they need. After undergoing chemo, I imagine it’s a long uncomfortable ride back from St. Mary’s.”

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