A Mother and her Two Daughters

31 July 2010

A Day of Hope

Friday I had my first outing since surgery, to spend the morning at the grand opening of the new Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute.  It is UAMS’ $130 million, 12-floor expansion doubling the institute’s clinical and laboratory space.  It’s difficult to describe the building.  However, it was evident that the plan was to create a clinic of serenity.  As Dr. Peter Emanuel, Cancer Institute Director said, “A cancer diagnosis is one of the most difficult and challenging things a person can experience. We want this building to provide as much comfort and convenience as possible while also helping to ease our patients’ burden, lift their spirits and promote their healing process.”  UAMS hit a homerun.  It’s all of those things, and more. 

Several hundred people attended including Liseanne Rockefeller, the widow of the late Lt. Governor Winthrop Rockefeller who fought the tough fight but lost his own battle from myeloproliferative disease in 2006.  I’m certain he is very proud to have his name on such a highly regarded cancer-fighting institution. 

There were many touching moments in yesterday’s opening celebration. 

First, the backdrop for the event platform was the face of cancer, more than forty Cancer Institute survivors, all of them with their own battle scars and stories.  Naturally they received a standing ovation from the crowd as they ably represented the 120,000 patients treated there each year. 

Dr. Emanuel accurately described two of the most significant moments in the cancer journey – the day you are diagnosed and the day you complete your treatment.  To honor this right of passage in the journey, in the facility’s atrium is a sculpture entitled “The Seed of Hope.” As patients complete their cancer treatments they will be given two tokens, one to keep and one to toss into an opening in the sculpture.  While I have not yet arrived to this place yet and won’t until I complete my radiation treatments, all who were present yesterday were given tokens to toss into the sculpture.  I couldn’t help but think about the thousands of people who will toss their coins each year feeling a great sense of hope and triumph. 

There are many definitions and synonyms for the word “hope” – a wish, an expectation, faith, trust and more.  But for the cancer patient, our HOPE is quite simple.  It’s a wish in our heart that life in the future will be better, that we will someday arrive to a cancer-free life without dependency on harsh treatments.

Yesterday a longtime friend said to me, “You really like this place, don’t you?”  My reply:  “How can you not feel an incredible bond to an institution that is doing a stupendous job of curing your cancer, saving your life?” 

The hope I have and the trust I feel for the Winthrop Rockefeller Cancer Institute was confirmed for me yesterday with a story shared by Dr. Emanuel.  He reflected on the 2008 topping out ceremony when a white steel beam signed by UAMS employees, volunteers and supporters was raised into place to mark the highest point of construction on the building.  Among the many signatures and messages was this one, probably signed by a UAMS cancer researcher:

Fight it with all the genius we have for as long as it takes. 

Here’s to you UAMS and your fighting spirit to find new ways to prevent and treat this horrible disease called cancer.  My hope is with you! 

Here's a photo of me and two of my dear friends who work at UAMS, Jo Smith and Pat Torvestad.  They have been two of my great soul sisters, for sure.  

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