Olympic gold medal figure skater and cancer survivor Scott Hamilton addressed thousands of fellow survivors during North Shore-LIJ Health System’s annual Cancer Survivors’ Day.
This marked the fourth time the health system has held this event. As it began, Dr. Richard Gralla, the chief of hematology and oncology at North Shore-LIJ’s Monter Cancer Center, proposed a toast to the survivors for continued good health.
“It fills my heart to see so many if our patients and their families here today,” said North Shore-LIJ Health System chairman Richard Goldstein. “It fills my heart to see how healthy you all are. You are not only surviving; you are thriving.”
LIJ Medical Center hematology and oncology chief Dr. Kanti Rai was honored during the event for his “40 years of continuous commitment.”
As the keynote speaker, Hamilton spoke about the ups and downs throughout his life. This included his adoption when he was six weeks old, his figure skating and his battle with first testicular cancer and then a brain tumor.
“It’s such an odd blessing because we find in us a champion we never new existed, a strength and a determination and an enormous power of being a cancer survivor,” he said.
Hamilton shared that his brain tumor had returned and that he expected to have surgery near the end of June to remove it. As he faced this, he said the cancer survivors at that day’s event would help him face it.
“You are all inspiring,” Hamilton said. “You’ve given me the strength…to face my next challenge with confidence, with a level of humor…and a level of positivity.”
Following the event, Hamilton described it as being “powerful.”
“It’s very moving and inspiriting,” he said. “It’s wonderful to see how far cancer research has come and to see all the people who really want to celebrate their lives in a new way.”
This was the first year that Little Neck resident Mary Bedrossian attended Cancer Survivor Day. She was first diagnosed with breast cancer on July 23, 2009. She said she is doing well now and recently finished radiation and chemotherapy.
“Just to be here and see how many survivors there are is just amazing,” said Bedrossian, describing it as a “phenomenal day.” She said that seeing so many survivors together in once place gives her hope and a positive attitude.
Bedrossian, who said she definitely plans on attending Cancer Survivors’ Day next year, was very impressed with Hamilton.
“He wowed the crowd,” she said. “I have been a fan of his forever, but he was just so open and moving and he touched my heart.”
Both Bedrossian and Hamilton had messages for anyone currently battling cancer.
“You have to keep that positive attitude,” Bedrossian said.
Hamilton said that the thing to keep in mind is “every minute of your life is a gift.”