Cancer Survivors Honored In NE OKC
OKLAHOMA CITY -- On Sunday, hundreds of people came out to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum for National Cancer Survivor’s Day.
This is the 32nd year the INTEGRIS Cancer Institute has held the event, which honors not only cancer survivors but those who have helped them along the way.
“Coming together as a group gives us an opportunity to celebrate that together,” said Katie Zahasky, an oncology nurse practitioner.
For 19 years, Zahasky took care of breast cancer patients.
“I had explained to my patients that chemotherapy had a beginning, middle and end, and they would get through it,” she said.
She had no idea back then that she herself would be on that same path.
“It was much worse than what I had explained to them,” Zahasky said.
In 2013, she was diagnosed with Leukemia.
“It just kind of through my whole life into disarray,” she said. “I had to figure out what to do with the 600 patients I took care of.”
She endured 27 days of chemotherapy. Then, another round at a high dose followed by a stem cell transplant. She beat the disease. At the annual cancer survivor’s day luncheon, she shared her story.
“I never really said 'why is this happening to me' because I saw cancer happen to thousands of patients that I took care of in 19 years,” said Zahasky.
Patients like the ones holding the lighted paper lanterns in the audience, who like Zahasky, depended on their family, friends, doctors and nurses.
“They all signed up and drove me sometimes twice a day to my appointments, seven days a week,” she said.
Six years later, she is still cancer free and stands among other survivors as they celebrate life by releasing hundreds of butterflies into the sky.
“We have 800 plus people that get to come together for a common cause, celebrate together and just spend time cherishing one another's company, socializing and reflecting on the past,” said Phil Lance, President of the INTEGRIS Cancer Institute.
“We celebrate as cancer survivors every day because we have learned how precious life is,” Zahasky said.
Sunday’s butterfly release was one of hundreds of events worldwide to honor cancer survivors.