BELGRADE – To be a cancer survivor is to experience a miracle. To share the miracle with other survivors of cancer is an incredible blessing.
Gale Wells, a sarcoma survivor from Belgrade in Washington County, recently joined more than 100 other five-year cancer survivors for an emotional tree planting ceremony at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) at Midwestern Regional Medical Center in Zion, Ill.
“The annual Celebrate Life event is an inspirational celebration of cancer survivorship,” said Kimberly Eberl , CTCA spokesperson. “Wells and his fellow survivors representing 44 states gathered to celebrate the milestone and to support one another as they continue their cancer survivorship journey.”
Wells, a car hauler who spends much of his time on the road, said he sought treatment at the center after being diagnosed with sarcoma in 2007.
“We had heard a lot of good things that the center had done for a friend,” recalls Wells. “I called them for a second opinion and made an appointment. Today, I proudly wear my ‘Cancer Fighters’ T-shirt. I got what I wanted — my life back to normal. I wanted to go back to work and do things that I used to do. The five-year celebration is something that I have been really looking forward to. As it got closer to five years, I realized how important this milestone is. I am celebrating life!”
Eberl said the annual commemorative tree planting ceremony symbolizes the wonder of life and growth.
“The 2013 Celebrate Life event marks the 25th year that a tree has been planted in honor of each five-year survivor, providing the nation with a thriving forest of life giving trees representing cancer survivorship,” she said.
Participants were joined by doctors, hospital administrators, clinical team members, caregivers, family members and members of the local community who attended in a show of support. During the ceremony, celebrants also released five white doves collectively representing each year of cancer-fighting survival while receiving treatment at the cancer treatment center.
The event also included a red carpet reception and luncheon with gourmet offerings of natural and organic foods prepared by the hospital restaurant’s culinary team.
Before the day concluded, many of the five-year survivors — including Wells — took time to walk through the hospital to offer comfort and support to other patients and family members, inspiring all. Each celebrant was also honored with an engraved gold leaf that is displayed on the ever-growing tree of life located at the hospital entrance.