Local News

Celebration at UNC Hospital helps cancer patients live fuller lives

Posted June 25, 2016 5:24 p.m. EDT
Updated June 25, 2016 6:29 p.m. EDT

— More than 15 million Americans live with cancer and Saturday at UNC Hospital, dozens came together for National Cancer Survivor Day.

Cancer can happen to anybody, including Jean Sellers, an oncology nurse who ran marathons.

“Everything inside is screaming, ‘no, you’re wrong. This can’t be true. This can’t be happening to me’,” she said.

Sellers was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which led to chemotherapy and wearing wigs. The tumor grew so big that one doctor said that she shouldn’t bother with a bone marrow transplant because she only had two months to live. Her boss at UNC had a different opinion.

“He was right when he said he would bring me to my knees, but he was also right that I wouldn’t die and I’m living proof of what miracles can happen,” Sellers said.

Not long ago, the diagnosis of many kinds of cancer meant a death sentence. Dr. Ned Sharpless, director of the UNC Lineberger Cancer Center, said the number of survivors celebrating Saturday shows how far cancer treatment has come.

“Our keynote speaker was someone who survived 10 years of stage four lung cancer,” Sharpless said. “When I started in oncology that never happened.”

Saturday’s gathering was meant to help survivors live fuller lives because even though the cancer may be gone, the anxiety is not.

“The psychology of being a cancer patient is much harder than you would expect,” Sharpless said.

B. Demers was at the beach when she learned she had uterine cancer. She was in surgery within a week and said cancer, as scary as it is, has a way of putting the mind of what matters.

“It sounds so clichéd, but you realize how valuable things are, how valuable people are,” Demers said.