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Celebrating life

Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center hosts annual Cancer Survivors Day event


Local cancer survivors and their families gathered at the Novant Health Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center on Sunday in celebration of National Cancer Survivors Day.

The event featured arts and crafts, health and wellness vendors, a DJ, bingo and a balloon release. What’s more, voices of hope rang in the air as survivors of all ages shared their tales of triumph.

Perry “Sonny” Smith of Charlotte, North Carolina, hugged Pam Gwaltney, a Novant Health nurse with specialized training who helped him navigate his cancer care. Two years ago, Smith was diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma, a rare and aggressive form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He spent 40 days in the hospital and eight months undergoing chemotherapy treatments. Today, the 64-year-old is cancer-free.

“He had a hard treatment but he made it through,” Gwaltney said of Smith.

During the celebration, Cathy Bessant, global technology and operations executive at Bank of America, presented a $76,068 check to the center. In March, she participated in the Charlotte Ballet’s Dancing with the Stars of Charlotte fundraising gala, which paired community leaders with Charlotte Ballet professional dancers to raise funds for the ballet and local charities. Bessant is a breast cancer survivor of five years and chose the Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center as her recipient charity.

“I can honestly say I wouldn’t be here if it had not been for the Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center,” she said.

Before the day's festivities ended, Marilyn Sutterlin of Charlotte, North Carolina, danced to Frank Sinatra’s rendition of “Moon River” with her husband, Joe. She said the couple personally knew Francis “Buddy” Kemp and his wife, Ginger, through their Sunday school class at church. While she watched her friend lose his battle with brain cancer, Sutterlin never anticipated she would find herself seeking support at the center named in his memory.

The 69-year-old is twice a survivor of ovarian cancer. “Who would have ever thought we would come here to use their services,” she said.

Learn more about the Novant Health Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center here.


Photos: Celebrating life
Perry “Sonny” Smith, 64, hugs Pam Gwaltney, a Novant Health nurse with specialized training who helped him navigate his cancer care.


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Published: 6/7/2015