UChicago Medicine holds second annual event for cancer survivors and caregivers

Jazz pianist Billy Foster and his wife and vocalist, Renee Miles-Foster
Jazz pianist and cancer survivor Billy Foster and his wife and vocalist, Renee Miles-Foster, perform at the UChicago Medicine cancer survivors event on May 18, 2019.

Earlier this month, UChicago Medicine held an event called “Survive. Thrive. Celebrate” to honor survivors and their caregivers. A cancer survivor is defined as anyone who is living with cancer or has overcome the disease, while caregivers are those who provide an important circle of support, such as family members.

The second annual event took place at the Duchossois Center for Advanced Medicine (DCAM) on Saturday, May 18, 2019. The celebration of survivorship gave approximately 150 attendees the opportunity to network with fellow patients and advocacy groups.

In addition, guests heard from UChicago Medicine faculty and staff on important topics such as nutrition and wellness, meeting the needs of patients and their caregivers, and medical advances brought about by clinical trials. Guests also had the opportunity to seek help navigating the cost of cancer care from financial advisors.

In between the faculty-led sessions, live musical entertainment was provided by jazz pianist Billy Foster and his wife and vocalist, Renee Miles-Foster. The couple are long-time volunteers for the UChicago Medicine Patient and Family Advisory Council.

The morning began with a continental breakfast, after which Tara Henderson, MD, MPH, director of Cancer Survivorship at UChicago Medicine, welcomed guests and opened the program.

As physicians, we are interested in treating you, not just your cancer.

“As physicians, we are interested in treating you, not just your cancer,” she said. “We recognize that patients and families are going to need support beyond the clinic, so that’s why these types of events are so important.”

Kathleen Goss, PhD, assistant director for administration at the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center, emceed the event. The first session of the day emphasized the importance of focusing on yourself. Yasmin Asvat, PhD; Lauren Miller, PT, DPT; and Stacy Tessler Lindau, MD, MAPP, talked about the impact of the cancer journey on emotional, physical, and sexual health.

The next session discussed how caregivers can find support for their loved ones and for themselves. Nutritionist Jill Bice, MS, RD, LDN, CSO, CNSC, gave tips for regaining strength through a healthy diet, while Amy Siston, PhD, provided advice on psychosocial needs of cancer patients and caregivers.

The final session — a panel including cancer survivor and advocate Alicia Cook; lung cancer surgeon Jessica Donington, MD; and prostate cancer expert Russell Szmulewitz, MD — touched on the medical advances made possible by patient participation in clinical trials.

Toward the end of each session, guests were able to ask questions about issues they commonly face. At the program’s conclusion, they were also free to speak with representatives from advocacy organizations including: , UChicago Medicine's Center for Supportive Oncology.

During the event, participants were invited to sign a large banner with their messages of hope and support. And many of them brought in canned goods and other food items for the Oncology Food Pantry, which provides free food for those undergoing cancer treatment.

Going through a cancer diagnosis and treatment can be a lonely and confusing experience. But by bringing together a community of survivors, advocates, and healthcare professionals, the event provided a welcome reminder that no one walks alone.