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University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center
Publish Date: 04/29/98
Media Contact: AHC Public Relations, (513) 558-4553
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Cancer Survivors Day Celebrated On June 7

Cincinnati--Kirsten Nigro, PhD, professor of hispanic culture and literature at the University of Cincinnati Department of Romance Language and Literature, has reason to celebrate Cancer Survivors Day on June 7. Three years ago, Kirsten was diagnosed with breast cancer. She describes her treatment with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation as a journey filled with love, with a little help from new friends found in cancer support groups. During that period, she met many other survivors in various stages of treatment who gave her the special support she needed to cope.

"Cancer is the great leveler of humankind and crosses all socioeconomic, racial, and religious boundaries," she says. She found intimate friendships in the support groups, with people she might never have met otherwise. Kirsten attended cancer support groups at the Wellness Center in Kenwood and at the Barrett Cancer Center.

Like most women diagnosed with breast cancer, Kirsten was shocked at first. But she knew she could survive--because her mother had survived her own breast cancer 35 years earlier. Her mother lost her breast to the disease, but no one spoke about it afterwards. "Iím glad the secret shroud surrounding cancer has finally been lifted. This is a disease that needs to be talked about, because talking about it reduces the fear," she says. "Many cancer survivors develop a dark sense of humor," she adds. Some she met during her treatment wrote poetry about the loss of hair, brittle nails, and other side effects.

"Iím living proof that whatever you have to go through is worth it," Kirsten says. Her advice to cancer patients is simple. "This isnít a contest of true grit, so however you react emotionally to cancer treatment is OK whether you laugh or cry. You need not be brave all the time, but remember to find ways to help those around you cope, because family, friends, and especially children, may have a tough time confronting their own fears of possible loss."

The Cincinnati Wellness Center offers support groups for family and friends and recently began one for children of cancer patients. Kirsten faced her own feelings of mortality thinking, "This isnít my time--Godís not going to get me yet." Today, Kirsten celebrates every minute possible with her daughter and husband, and her mother, who lives in Georgia, via telephone. She is looking forward to National Cancer Survivors Day, to be celebrated in Cincinnati on June 7 at the "Festival of Life." The corporate sponsor of the 1998 "Festival of Life" is the Health Alliance of Greater Cincinnati, which includes: The Christ Hospital, The University Hospital, The Jewish Hospital, and the St. Luke Hospitals.

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