(WWLP) – Six cancer survivors were honored on Thursday, Nov. 21, as 2019 Cancer Survivor Heroes during an inaugural fund-raising event for a western Massachusetts nonprofit Survivor Journeys.
Founded by Dr. Jay Burton, a survivor of acute myeloid leukemia and a primary care physician based in Enfield with Springfield Medical Associates, the nonprofit provides a variety of free services and programs to cancer survivors.
Heidi Huhn-Partain of Suffield, Conn. is a lung cancer survivor, among the increasing number of non-smokers being diagnosed with this disease. After a lung resection and chemotherapy, she 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 care, caregiving, and medical stafﬁng solutions to families, and businesses on a 24/7 basis. She is also a religious education teacher and Rotary International member. She has been a supporter and volunteer for Survivor Journeys and the American Lung Association.
Liz Wilson Greer
Liz Wilson Greer of Springfield was diagnosed a number of years ago with soft tissue sarcoma called solitary fibrous tumors and is on her fourth recurrence. A graduate of UMass-Amherst who traveled the country as an esthetician and makeup artist for Chanel, she has undergone six different treatments as well as major surgeries to get rid of the tumors. She said her “numerous bouts with cancer have taken a great deal from me physically, emotionally, and spiritually,” but that she refuses to “let cancer steal my life, my hope, or any more of my dreams” which include finishing her music degree and becoming a musician. She added that she wants “to live to give hope to other rare sarcoma patients.”
Luke Bradley of South Hadley is a 14-year-old, three-time survivor of acute lymphoblastic leukemia which was ﬁrst diagnosed at age 6. During his ﬁrst recurrence he developed bacterial meningitis that resulted in seizures and multiple neurological impairments, resuscitations and neurosurgeries as well as a long rehabilitation process. His second recurrence required a bone marrow transplant in December 2017, with his father, Ryan, being the donor. After a nine-month quarantine, he was able to begin high school. He prefers to focus on the present and the future to further make his mark on the world.
Ryan Bradley, Luke’s father:
Candy Oyler of Longmeadow is a two-time cancer survivor – osteosarcoma at age 14 and breast cancer at age 43 – who has persevered and thrived despite complications including a leg amputation as a teenager and a heart transplant at age 57. She has volunteered extensively for the Jimmy Fund of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and other cancer-related organizations.
Also honored that night were Meghan Rothschild of Northampton was diagnosed with stage 2 malignant melanoma in college. She has been an advocate, speaking about life-threatening damage of tanning.
Chris Thibault of Springfield. He is a stage 4 breast cancer survivor… who has undergone multiple forms of chemotherapy and immunotherapy, as well as complementary therapies. Since his diagnosis, he has started a podcast and blog that document his cancer journey, his frustrations, and his life as a husband, father, and friend.
These heroes have inspired their community and others as they persevered through the challenges of their diagnosis with a brave and determined spirit. Many of our heroes have volunteered in the community or inspired others to volunteer.