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Carroll Hospital to hold cancer survivors picnic Sunday, June 3

Cancer center co-workers Kim Perdue, left, and Angela Battaglia react while dancing as Carroll Hospital hosted a free day of family fun in honor of National Cancer Survivor's Day in 2015. This year's survivor day picnic is set for Sunday, June 3 at Taneytown Memorial Park.
Cancer center co-workers Kim Perdue, left, and Angela Battaglia react while dancing as Carroll Hospital hosted a free day of family fun in honor of National Cancer Survivor's Day in 2015. This year's survivor day picnic is set for Sunday, June 3 at Taneytown Memorial Park. (DYLAN SLAGLE/STAFF PHOTO / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

It was November 2013 when Janet Sanders was diagnosed with breast cancer.

In the months that that followed, she underwent a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, until she finally completed her treatment in July 2014, all done at Carroll Hospital’s William E. Kahlert Regional Cancer Center.

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“I was just so happy I could get my treatment in Carroll County,” Sanders said.

Today, Sanders still goes to follow-up check-ups with one specialist or another every four or five months, but her preferred way of keeping up with her doctors and nurses is a bit less formal: Ever since her diagnosis, she’s been attending the annual National Cancer Survivors Day picnic hosted by Carroll Hospital at Taneytown Memorial Park, where she plans to be this year on Sunday, June 3.

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“It’s a very relaxed setting. You see your doctors out there mingling with your grandchildren, your children,” she said. “It’s a really nice event they put on.”

This year, the free event will kick off at noon and include picnic food, a DJ, face painting and other family-friendly fun, according to Sherry Morres, a clinical research nurse at the cancer center and the original organizer of the survivors day event.

Carroll Hospital is the first hospital in Maryland to adopt a new technology for breast surgery that improves patient comfort and makes that surgery easier for surgeons.

“This is strictly just no agenda, no timeline, it’s just a DJ playing music, great food and a place for the patients to interact with each other and the staff. It’s very low key,” Morres said. “We had a great turnout last year. I don’t know if the weather will cooperate this year, but hopefully it will. It’s a lot of fun.”

Those interested in attending are asked to call 410-871-7000 to register to ensure a proper headcount.

Breast cancer survivor Tabatha Knoyer is especially looking forward to the picnic. Unable to attend due to traveling out of state to meet with family every year since her diagnosis in 2014, she’s made a point to schedule the event this year.

“I am looking forward to seeing everyone and seeing people I haven’t seen since maybe I was going through treatment,” Knoyer said, “just to see how everyone is doing.”

Knoyer had a difficult time during her treatment, losing her job due to the demands of receiving care, and she experienced difficulty in finding a new job afterward. But she found her treatment experience at Carroll Hospital to be full of “positivity” and that the support of other patients through the Embrace program was critical for her success. She sees Sunday’s picnic as a chance to network and spread that support.

“I made it my personal mission, along with a small group of other breast cancer survivors, that this program needs to carry on for all cancer survivors, not just breast cancer survivors,” she said. “Because all of us need that support to get our strength back up, learn about nutrition and all the other avenues that are in it.”

That’s an aspect of the event that Sanders has really enjoyed as well.

“The first year I went I ran into a lady that we used to be Cub Scout moms together and I didn’t realize she had cancer. So her husband and my husband got to talk about the caregiver role,” she said. “If you have teenagers or other kids that are out there interacting, I’m sure it’s a chance or them to see there are other families that go through it and maybe those kids can talk about how they feel about that.”

The idea of an informal, but still supportive, event was what drove the creation of the picnic eight years ago, according to Morres.

“It kind of came from wanting to celebrate them and doing something fun for our patients and get to see them an interact with them in a place that wasn’t clinical,” she said.

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Volunteers at Carroll Hospital's William E. Kahlert Regional Cancer Center offer a smile, a conversation and emotional support for those in treatment.

Sanders said she has really enjoyed that aspect of meeting with doctors and staff with whom she had grown close, but in a less trying circumstance than undergoing treatment.

“They are like your family,” she said. “You’re there every day and they see the worst side of you and are always so supportive.”

“We’re seeing them over and over again and we’ve gotten to know their family and we’ve gotten to know their story a little bit,” Morres added. “It’s nice to kind of take that outside of the office and and interact with them.”

But the National Cancer Survivors Day picnic isn’t just limited to those who received treatment at Carroll Hospital, or those who have completed treatment, according to Morres.

“They are considered survivors from the day they are diagnosed,” she said. “It is open to anyone.”

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly listed the starting time of the National Cancer Survivors Day picnic. The picnic will begin at noon Sunday.

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