Cancer survivors celebrate life

Annual event by Project Self-Sufficiency

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  • Cancer survivor and owner of Just Breathe Wellness, Catherine Stone (left) with her oncologist and one of the event's panelists Dr. May Abdo-Matkiwsky. Photos by Laurie Gordon

  • Seated, from left, Dr. Dhawani Parikh and Dr. May Abdo-Matkiwsky served as panelists at the event and answered a host of questions about breast cancer.

  • The group of survivors joined by doctors gathered after the event outside of Project Self-Sufficiency

  • Wigs and scarves were on display at the event.

By Laurie Gordon

— It was a room full of kindred spirits bonding through education, great food, a little pampering and the exchanging of stories. Each of the women seated in the multi-purpose room at Project Self-Sufficiency on Saturday was a breast cancer survivor, and the event's name said it all: “Celebrate You!”

Barbara O'Neil, of Andover Township, said, “I've been coming most years they've had this event. Project Self-Sufficiency goes out of their way to make us feel special.” O'Neil was diagnosed in September of 1999 and had her first chemotherapy treatment on New Year's Eve (Y2K). She was deemed “NED,” which stands for “No Evidence of Disease,” in August 2000. “This is a great event to get people together who have gone through the same thing, hear some great speakers and nice music and visit the various vendors to see what's out there.”

Jeanne Hinke, of Branchville, echoed O'Neil's sentiments. “It's just so amazing to be in a room full of people who have been through the same thing as you have. They 'get you.' “ She added, I came her last year and found it totally reaffirming. You leave feeling that you've been pampered and educated and bonded with others. It's just such a wonderful thing that Project Self-Sufficiency hosts.”

A question and answer discussion about the latest trends in breast cancer research and treatment was facilitated by medical oncologist, Dr. May Abdo-Matkiwsky, and radiation oncologist Dr. Dhawani Parikh. Dr. Abdo-Matkiwsky stressed that there should be no age cut off for getting mammograms. “As long as you can get to the screening, you should keep on getting mammograms as long as you can,” she said. The doctors reiterated that chemotherapy is much more effective on patients who take care of themselves. For instance, Dr. Abdo-Matkiwsky said, “If you drink while receiving chemo, chances are it's going to be less effective.”

Project Self-Sufficiency's Executive Director, Deborah Berry-Toon said, “This is our favorite event. The energy and the happiness and the empowerment in this room today is just amazing.”

Therapist, educator and author Diane Lang captivated guests with her keynote speech about finding happiness, and break-out sessions for participants featured a guided meditation session by Catherine Stone of Just Breathe Wellness, a low-impact exercise workshop by Fitness Coaching LLC staff members, and an overview of proper nutrition by Shop Rite representatives. Music was provided by the Skylands Dulcimer Band. There was also a special appearance by Project Self-Sufficiency Leadership Council Member Susan Knutsen and her therapy dog, Sam. The luncheon was sponsored by Regional Care Cancer Associates and catered by Newton Medical Center.

Stone said, “It was so great to be a part of this both as a breast cancer survivor and as a teacher to do guided meditation. Dr. May is my oncologist and she's just an amazing lady.”

Numerous vendors were on hand to offer tips on health, wellness, fashion and exercise, including Alternative Hair at Sunshine; Color Genomics; Diane Lang Counseling; Fitness Coaching, LLC; Just Breathe Wellness; Mary Kay; Newton Medical Center; NJ CEED – Sussex County Division of Health; Planned Parenthood; Project Self-Sufficiency; Shop Rite; Soul II Soul Health and Wellness; Sparta Cancer Center/Regional Cancer Care Associates; Sussex County Division of Health; and the Sussex County YMCA. Gift certificates to local businesses and boutiques, baskets of accessories and other items were raffled off to participants throughout the event. All activities were uniquely designed to celebrate the survival of breast cancer by local women.

The Survivor Celebration was sponsored by Project Self-Sufficiency, Regional Cancer Care Associates, Sparta Cancer Center, Sussex County Office of Public Health Nursing and the Sussex County New Jersey Cancer Education and Early Detection.

The breast health education project at Project Self-Sufficiency offers an abundance of services for teen girls and women throughout the year, including free mammograms and breast health education for middle schools, high schools, colleges, religious organizations and civic groups. For more information about the breast health education program, or to find out about any of the other programs and services available at Project Self-Sufficiency, call 973-940-3500 or 844-807-3500, or visit <URL destination=" ">

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