Actors Robert Urich and Bonnie Hunt to speak at University of Chicago Hospitals cancer survivors celebration, June 7

Actors Robert Urich and Bonnie Hunt to speak at University of Chicago Hospitals cancer survivors celebration, June 7

June 7, 1998

Cancer survivor and prolific television actor Robert Urich will be the keynote speaker for the University of Chicago Hospitals ninth annual "Celebration of Life," a recognition of National Cancer Survivors Day. The Hospitals' event will be held from noon to 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, June 7, 1998 at the Westin Hotel, 909 N. Michigan.

The theme for the day is, "It's a Wonderful Life."

Urich is one of nearly 8 million cancer survivors in the United States. The star of 10 television series--including the long-running "Spenser: For Hire,"--Urich was diagnosed with synovial sarcoma, a rare soft-tissue cancer, in August 1996; he received aggressive radiation and chemotherapy.

"I decided early that I wasn't going to be a victim," Urich recalls. He chose to go public with his cancer diagnosis--an unusual decision for a mid-career actor--and took an active role in his care, becoming "a partner with my doctors in affecting my cure."

Faced with a demanding treatment regimen and forced to cancel shooting of "The Lazarus Man," Urich found time to re-examine his life. "There is a reason for all this to be happening," he concluded. "You will become a better human being and you will see the spiritual brilliance of it all."

Actress Bonnie Hunt--who has appeared in 11 major motion pictures, including "Jerry Maguire," "Jumanji," "Rain Man," and starring roles in numerous television series--will serve as master of ceremonies for the day's events. Hunt is the only woman ever to create, write, produce, and star in her own television series--the award winning "Bonnie Hunt Show." She was also named "the Best Talk Show Guest in America," by Entertainment Weekly.

A former cancer nurse, Hunt, who grew up in Chicago and has been active in charity work--supporting shelters for the homeless and for battered women--as well as cancer research and Gilda's Club, an information and support group for people with cancer.

Anyone who has had cancer, plus friends, or family members, may attend. Last year, more than 750 people attended the celebration.

The day's events include:

  • Noon-1:00 p.m. "Tree of Life" celebration, where survivors post "leaves" bearing messages of hope on the tree; also buffet lunch, mingling, and a chance to visit information booths from organizations that assist cancer patients and survivors.
  • 12:45 p.m. "His Way: The Man and His Music," entertainment by Ron Hawking, cancer survivor, musician, and humorist.
  • 1:00 p.m. Welcoming remarks from Hospitals Vice President Kenneth Kates.
  • 1:15 p.m. Remarks by Funmi Olopade, MD, director of the University of Chicago Cancer Risk Clinic.
  • 1:25 p.m. Bunnie Cline, 25-year cancer survivor.
  • 1:35 p.m. Larry Baran, cancer survivor, presents "It's a Wonderful Life," a brief, unpredictable, prop-filled presentation that incorporates themes from health care, the banking industry and classic movies.
  • 1:50 p.m. Keynote speaker Robert Urich (and, for children, a puppet workshop by Hystopolis Productions).

Cancer Survivors Day provides an opportunity for those with cancer to meet other patients and long-term survivors like Urich, Hawking, Cline, and Baran.

"Events such as this one can alleviate a lot of the stress that comes with a diagnosis of cancer," said Richard Schilsky, MD, professor of medicine at the University of Chicago and director of the University of Chicago Cancer Research Center.

"This gathering is a chance for cancer survivors to celebrate their success and for newly diagnosed patients to focus on the light at the end of the tunnel."

Admission is free, but participants are requested to make reservations by calling 1-800-289-6333.