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Survivor celebration

Red Bay cancer survivor enjoys five-year celebration at CTCA

When Red Bay’s Jacqueline Parsons was first diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2011, she initially put off seeking treatment. Not sure how to proceed, it took prodding from one of her sisters to propel her to pursue treatment through the Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Zion, Ill.

“She said, ‘What are you dragging your feet about? You need to make a call, and I want to know by Friday what your plan is,’” Parsons recalled. But busy preparing for the beginning of the school year – Parsons is a special education teacher at Red Bay High School – she continued to delay. Finally, her youngest sister called the CTCA for her and urged them to give Parsons a call. They did, and Parsons ultimately opted to begin treatment at CTCA.

It turned out to be one of the best decisions she had ever made for herself. Parsons said she embraced CTCA’s holistic approach to healthcare. She had surgery at the CTCA in October and stayed on for continuing care.

“You have a team of people that you work with – I liked that concept. You have a naturopathic doctor, oncologist, surgeon, radiation doctor and nutritionist,” Parsons said. “They look at the whole body approach – mental, physical, spiritual. If something in any area is keeping you off balance, where you’re not well, that could cause you not to heal like you need to heal. All that made sense to me.”

Five years later, Parsons was invited to join more than 140 five-year cancer survivors in June for Celebrate Life, an “annual day of empowerment and celebration” at Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Midwestern Regional Medical Center, Zion, Ill.

This was the 28th year that CTCA at Midwestern has held Celebrate Life, and CTCA representatives reported a record number of patients and caregivers participating to mark the occasion.

Parsons and the other celebrants, representing 32 states including Hawaii, were transported to the event on large Coach buses and escorted, with lights flashing, by members of the Zion, Ill., Fire-Rescue Department. Upon arrival, the celebrants stepped on to a red carpet, lined on both sides with hundreds of supporters including family, friends, doctors, nurses and members of the community.

“The survivors united as a group for inspirational opening remarks before participating in a commemorative tree planting ceremony,” explained a press release about the event. “Every year, a tree is planted in honor of each five-year cancer survivor, providing the nation with a forest of life-giving trees that represent cancer survivorship. Each survivor is also honored with an engraved gold leaf, which is proudly displayed on one of four blossoming ‘Trees of Life’ located within the hospital.”

Before the day concluded, each celebrant and their guests enjoyed a gourmet lunch prepared by the culinary team at CTCA, during which time more stories were shared, friendships were formed, and memories were made.

Parsons said she feels fortunate to have had enough sick days saved up and the type of schedule and lifestyle that allowed her make the trips to Zion, Ill., for treatment and still keep her job. “While you’re there, they take such good care of you. They meet every need you could possibly have.” She is also thankful her husband was able to accompany her and that she received successful treatment and compassionate care.

“I wish everyone could go there.”