Five years of survivorship recognized at Celebrate Life event

By Bethe Croy

Staff Writer

Three local cancer survivors celebrated five years of survivorship June 5 during the annual Celebrate Life event put on by the Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Midwestern Regional Medical Center.

Ray Taylor of Kenosha, William Harding of Twin Lakes and Sharon Kerkman of Silver Lake participated in the activities during the ceremony, which included walking down a red carpet lined with friends, family and hospital care team members; a tree-planting ceremony symbolizing life and growth; and a gourmet luncheon.

All three were treated at the CTCA at Midwestern Regional Medical Center in Zion, Ill.

“I’m just so happy to be alive,” Kerkman said.

She was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in April of 2010. She chose the CTCA because of the convenience of having everything needed under one roof as well as the “holistic” care there, she said.

“They offer so much hope to their patients, which is so important when fighting this dreadful disease,” Kerkman said.

Harding, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2000, had surgery during which the doctors thought they had successfully removed the cancer, but later discovered it was still there and had metastasized in his spine and shoulder.

He went to the CTCA in late 2009 for a second opinion and continued going there for treatment because of the “phenomenal” care, he said.

About 10 weeks ago, they discovered Harding had a brain tumor, and he recently went through a successful surgery, he said.

“While they’re treating me now, they’re still looking for alternatives for me in the future,” Harding said.

He is currently undergoing chemotherapy and radiation, but remains optimistic, he said.

Taylor, diagnosed with bladder cancer in early 2008, said they found it was really aggressive in 2009 with the discovery of two additional tumors on his bladder.

“I just thank the Lord for putting me in such good care with the CTCA,” Taylor said. “I just now have a second chance in life.”

Taylor said he can now travel places without worrying, and he does volunteer work at his church.

Kerkman also said she had been given a second chance at life and vowed to never take a day for granted. In a situation such as this, a person realizes how fragile life is, she said.

Kerkman, a licensed practical nurse, has been caring for her 96-year-old mother for the past two years, spending time with her and planning various activities. She cherishes their time together, and her cancer battle made her even more appreciative of time with her family.

“Life is truly a gift,” she said.

She has also taken time to visit her son, Paul, who accompanied her to the Celebration of Life 2015 and described the event as an extravaganza, she said.

There were 115 celebrants this year at the event. The attendees were also honored with a gold leaf engraved with their name and displayed on one of the “Trees of Life” in the hospital.

Harding, who has met the founder, vice president, and various others, said he feels everyone at the center is positive – patients and staff alike.

“They talk to you just as nice as if they were your friends,” he said. “I’m not a number, I’m a name.”

Harding recommends anyone facing cancer issues should get a second opinion rather than just relying on one and also advises them to seek care from a facility that treats individuals for their specific diagnosis rather than a more general.


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