- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 6, 2017

NEW ALBANY, Ind. (AP) - It might sound crazy to some people, but Diana Bogard says she has a blast at the annual cancer survivor’s celebration at Baptist Health Floyd’s Cancer Care Center.

Bogard was diagnosed with lung cancer two years ago. As someone who never smoked a cigarette, she had the question many people in her shoes have: why me?

But soon Bogard learned to look ahead and set goals for herself. She figured God gave her a second chance, and she was not going to waste it.

“And that gives me something to fight for,” the 69-year-old said.

Bogard was one of roughly 100 people to celebrate survival and life Friday at the Cancer Care Center on Green Valley Road. The center has organized the celebration for about eight years.

Angie Glotzbach, Baptist Health Floyd marketing and PR coordinator, helps organize the event every year.

“Organizing it is easy,” she said. “I mean, when you look in their faces and ask them how many years they’ve been around and how long they’ve survived this disease, it just gives you goosebumps to know this many people - they made it. They’re making it and they’re living their lives.”

As a nod to that accomplishment, this year’s celebration theme was “birthday party.” Tables were covered with star-studded table cloths and inflatable cupcakes served as center pieces. Balloon animals multiplied by the minute and shiny paper crowns decorated the occasional head.

“… It’s kind of like we want to make them feel like a kid again,” Glotzbach said.

Each survivor was given a cloth candle to stick on an over-sized, three-tiered inflatable cake. On the flames they wrote the number of years they’ve been a survivor: two, three, 20.

Glotzbach said hospital staff tells patients that they become survivors the day they’re diagnosed. As long as they’re fighting, they’re surviving.

Martha Harrington isn’t ready to call herself a cancer survivor, at least not yet. She was diagnosed with breast cancer 11 months ago and is now in remission.

“I’m in the midst of that, that’s why I say I won’t say cancer free. I don’t feel that at all and I don’t know when I’m going to reach that point,” Harrington said.

“But I had questions, so I just wanted to be with people who maybe had the same questions and can get some answers.”

Her husband, Charles Harrington, agreed. Seeing people raise their hands to declare they made it 40 years past their diagnosis is encouraging.

“It feels good,” he said.

For Bogard, surviving cancer means being able to spend time with her family and friends. Just a few weeks ago, she welcomed a great grandchild into the world. Watching her family grow gives her, well, life.

When her family can’t be right by her side, Bogard said she can turn to the family of friends she’s made at the Cancer Care Center. Through 30 radiation treatments and four chemotherapy session, she’s made a few of friends.

One of the center’s friendly faces is Kristy Helm, a breast cancer nurse navigator. She helps patients navigate from diagnosis all the way through treatment and post operation.

“… Things like this (event) are so wonderful because I run into patients that are two and three years out, and they look healthy and they’re so happy to be back,” she said. “And it’s a blessing to see somebody so overwhelmed and you’re able to hopefully alleviate that.”

For anyone who is grappling with their cancer diagnosis, Harrington advised to “just take it day by day.”

Meanwhile, Bogard is looking forward to another birthday party in August when she turns 70.

“I got four months before I have to have another test done,” she said. “And I keep praying that that test is going to come back OK and I keep to keep on going.”

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Source: (Jeffersonville) News and Tribune, http://bit.ly/2qUzizc

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