SOMERS, Conn. (WWLP) – Six people were honored Thursday night as 2019 Cancer Survivor Heroes during an inaugural fund-raising event.
Grateful hearts came together to be honored for their journey in the fight against cancer at Monticello in Somers, CT.
Survivor Journeys is a western Massachusetts nonprofit which provides social and emotional support services to cancer survivors and their loved ones.
The six people honored at the event were:
- Luke Bradley – South Hadley, MA
- Liz Wilson Greer – Springfield, MA
- Candy Oyler – Southwick, MA
- Heidi Huhn-Partain – Suffield, CT
- Megan Rothschild – Northampton, MA
- Chris Thibault – Springfield, MA
22News had the opportunity to talk to some of the heroes that were honored.
Luke Bradley is a three time cancer survivor who attends South Hadley High and the youngest honoree at just 14-years-old. He told 22News he doesn’t reflect on the past, and chooses to focus on the future.
“My plans are really maybe to just follow the train…that’s going along. My dad’s a pastor, his dad’s a pastor so maybe,” Luke said.
Another survivor honored Thursday, Heidi Huhn-Partain, a woman whose drive to help others began before her own cancer diagnosis.
Heidi has never smoked a day in her life. So imagine her shock when she was diagnosed with lung cancer four and a half years ago.
“I had a cold and I went in and had an x-ray and clearly one of these things did not belong there. And in a relatively short order, I had what I thought was going to be a tumor removed and they removed the lower left lobe of my lung,” said Heidi.
After a lung resection and chemotherapy, Heidi has been cancer free for four years.
Her drive to help others began before her cancer diagnosis when she started BrightStar Care of Hartford, a home health care company providing home caregiving and medical stafﬁng solutions to families, and businesses on a 24/7 basis.
“How do I get back to work or re-engage and figure out my finances or have a personal life? Is it ok if I can travel? What happened if I’m sick when I’m away? And all of those sorts of how does life work after a diagnosis… how does life continue to be a journey of survivorship? There are not enough support services there and I think folks figure it out as we go. And Survivor Journeys does a really great job of having folks who have been there before you,” said Heidi.
Hearing from someone else who made that same journey of recovery changed Heidi’s outlook.
“Well you look at every sunrise a little differently after you’ve had a diagnosis. I find that for me that gratitude and optimism have been the greatest gifts I’ve gotten from my Survivor Journey and being able to help others,” said Heidi.
That’s the essence of Survivor Journeys. One survivor helping another.
22News also had a chance to talk to Dr. Jay Burton, founder of Survivor Journeys. Watch the video below for the interview.
22News also talks to another hero that was honored at the event Thursday night. Cancy Oyler of Southwick talked about her journey with cancer.
Survivor Journeys has been a non-profit organization since March, 2015. Its origins, began during the year-long medical quarantine Dr Jay Burton lived through after his stem cell transplant for Acute Myeloid Leukemia which ended in late October 2011. Dr Burton’s emotional and social support experiences prompted speaking engagements about cancer survivorship. The community interest generated from these talks, as well as the lack of emotional and support services for cancer survivors in our region, led to the creation of Survivor Journeys.
Survivor Journeys is a community-based support network of professionals from diverse clinical and community backgrounds who provide cancer survivors, caregivers, and loved ones unique survivorship services in western Massachusetts and northern Connecticut.