First-ever Survivor Love initiative embraces recently diagnosed men and women in a supportive and celebratory community designed just for them
Susan G. Komen Philadelphia rang in 2016 with a brand new program developed to help new breast cancer survivors feel fully confident and empowered as they enter their lives as survivors. The initiative, called Survivor Love, was made possible in part by Exclusive Presenting Sponsor, SugarHouse Casino, and includes everything from celebratory survivor parties and complimentary Race for Cure registration, to an inspiring video in which these recently diagnosed men and women declare for the first time “Nothing can stop me – I am a survivor!” Survivor Love recognizes that the need for peer and community support for recently diagnosed individuals/ breast cancer survivors is different than that for survivors several years into their survivorship.
“These men and women just spent the most difficult 12-24 months of their lives… fighting for their lives,” said Elaine I. Grobman, Chief Executive Officer, Susan G. Komen Philadelphia. “They are physically and emotionally exhausted. They are frightened of what may come next; they are still feeling their way in their new lives as survivors. And while many of them have amazing family and friends for support, they are missing that key connection to people like them – to new survivors as well as ‘veteran’ survivors who can mentor them. We started Survivor Love to give them an opportunity to honor the battle they just waged, to celebrate their victories, and to meet their very specialized needs as new survivors.”
Many of the initial Survivor Love activities centered around the “hallmark” Komen Philadelphia event, the annual Race for the Cure. SugarHouse Casino underwrote complimentary Race registrations for all new survivors who expressed interest in the program. Many survivors joined the 2016 Race as part of “Team Survivor #1,” while others joined teams of friends or “new friends” they met through Komen Philadelphia. All told more than 200 Survivor Love survivors – as well as dozens of their family and friends – will unite at the Race on Mother’s Day.
“The Komen Philadelphia Race for the Cure is such a monumental event in our community – for anyone who ever felt the pain of breast cancer; and let’s face it, everyone has,” said Wendy Hamilton, General Manager, SugarHouse Casino. “SugarHouse is extremely proud not only of being a Race sponsor for several years but, this year especially that we could be the reason over 200 new survivors experienced their very first Parade of Pink at the Race. That parade is a such an important step for thousands of survivors as they embrace their role as a member of the survivor community – and this Mother’s Day our team will be cheering louder than anyone as our Survivor Love group takes their victory walk.”
Complimentary Race registrations were just the beginning of Survivor Love. In early March, more than 60 recently diagnosed men and women gathered at SugarHouse for the filming of “Share the Love” an inspiring music video set to “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now” and featuring Survivor Love survivors celebrating their recently victory over breast cancer. Two weeks later at another celebration at SugarHouse, the video was premiered in front of the survivor participants, their friends and family, and an approximately 200 additional Race for the Cure participants, volunteers and supporters. Komen Philadelphia and SugarHouse now focus on the next phase of the program, which they foresee including a survivor mentor program which will eventually have this year’s Survivor Love community become a source of support for future breast cancer patients.
“It’s very exciting to do this,” said Christine Lamar, a new breast cancer survivor who completed treatment in late 2015. “I am so grateful for the doors Survivor Love has opened for me to pay it forward… that now, I am able to help other women know that they can make it through breast cancer and come out stronger on the other side. It’s just amazing the conversations I have with everyone. There are so many lives that breast cancer has touched.”
Ultimately, Survivor Love hopes to help new survivors form life-long relationships with their peers, as well as with Komen Philadelphia. The organization is poised to be a powerful connection for all survivors and can offer them resources ranging from education and insights on new research for early detection, prevention and treatment, to support groups and powerful ways for each survivor to fulfill his or her personal breast cancer mission.
“A lot of our staff and volunteers, myself included, had tears in our eyes as we experienced the filming of the video and other Survivor Love celebrations – our vision truly did come true,” said Grobman. “One woman told me her friend had been depressed and house-bound since her diagnosis but she managed to convince her to be in the video… we looked over and there was this ‘shy’ survivor, dancing and laughing with her sister survivors. This is what Survivor Love is all about!”
The 200+ Survivor Love survivors – including two male survivors – will take the place of honor at the 2016 Race for the Cure, holding the “Survivor!” banner and leading the survivors Parade of Pink down the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Race takes place on Mother’s Day, May 8 at Eakins Oval/The Philadelphia Museum of Art.