UPMC Passavant Holds 5th Annual Celebration of Survivorship

By: Colleen Zewe

Survivor Celebration Tree - Brandy

UPMC Passavant recently held its fifth annual Celebration of Survivorship. Each year, the event brings together cancer survivors, their families and hospital staff for an entertaining and educational evening celebrating cancer survival.

The UPMC CancerCenter at Passavant is associated with the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, the region’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. The CancerCenter offers patients advanced diagnosis, top-quality treatment and emotional assistance with services such as nutrition counseling, stress management and support groups.

Held at La Roche College, this year’s celebration was attended by more than 600 survivors, families and staff. Guests were provided with survivorship health and wellness education that focused on living a healthy lifestyle in remission and beyond.

Wellness coach and cancer survivor Katy Ursta provided the keynote speech, discussing how fitness impacted her journey with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

After her diagnosis, Ms. Ursta decided to share her fight publicly and launched her One Fit Fighter Facebook campaign. Due to chemotherapy, the fitness coach could no longer work out with her usual intensity. Friends and family took to the gym on her behalf, and this ultimately grew into a social media movement known as #everysweatmatters.

The campaign helped Ms. Ursta and her supporters raise over $70,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

“Don’t ever stop living,” said Ms. Ursta, who continues to share her battle and help others through speaking engagements and fitness coaching. “Cancer, or whatever obstacle you are facing, does not define you.”

The program included two breakout sessions. Caroline Mazurek, M.S., R.D., L.D.N., discussed dietary considerations and suggestions for cancer survivors.

“Nutrition is an essential component in fighting cancer, and ultimately in preventing recurrence,” said Ms. Mazurek. “I want people to understand the connection between what they eat and how it manifests as their overall health.”

Kerry Harling, Ayurveda practitioner at the UPMC Center for Integrative Medicine in Shadyside, presented “Why Context is Everything in Health,” a talk on the benefits of holistic medicine and how true health looks at the whole person and their personal needs.

“Medicine is not one size fits all,” she said.

Overall, the Celebration of Survivorship was a great way for cancer patients to celebrate their survival and learn how to lead a healthy lifestyle.