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St. Anthony's Cancer Center installs clock dedicated survivors


Sister Mary McNally, Vice President of Mission at St. Anthony's Hospital, stood in front of a cancer survivor room to reveal a silver bell surrounded by butterfly clays mounted in the center of the Cancer Center lobby.

"People often finish their treatment and they go out the door," she said. "Now we have that symbolism." Yes, I'm free now. This is my new life. "?"

Then, in a year's anniversary of her own end of radiation therapy, McNally called the clock.

"It's an important part of the healing process," she told full of survivors, who were there Friday to ring the clock for each year of their survival, ranging from 33 years of being cancer-free to Gina Forgetta, who finished her radiation therapy earlier that day.

"There has been a long way and this is the end," said Forgetta, who had come to St. Anthony in the last six weeks of radiation on her jaw.

Cancer Center at St. Anthony's was built in 1

991. Since then, the mortality rate for cancer as a whole has decreased by about 23 percent, according to the American Cancer Society.

Tom McMahon, Director of Oncology at St. Anthony said that that number does not apply to any type of cancer, largely, the survival rate has "dramatically improved".

Part of it has been due to early detection and identification of preventive factors, some from improved technology in treatment.

"Certain cancer rates have not improved dramatically and it's frustrating when you do not see it," he said. "But we tell patients on the day they have been diagnosed, they become survivors, whether they survive for two weeks or 31 years."

McNally was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2016. She started radiation in February 2017 and came to the center of treatment from Monday to Friday. The process, she said, may be lonely and scary.

While technicians and doctors prepare the patient, he or she must enter the radiation trap alone.

McNally remembers to repeat: "Be still and know that I am God and love" until each session was over.

"It's not bad," she said. "But there is always a fear of the unknown."

While each person's journey is different, McMahon says that closure to a successful stage of treatment is an important step in holistic recovery.

Sandra Bailey, head of cancer center, said they often tell patients that they hope they will never be seen again.

McNally, who was cancer free after seven weeks of radiation, said it's good to have an external symbol at the time.

"It lets you move on with life," she said. "It will not happen soon, but by a way."

Contact Divya Kumar at [email protected] Follow @divyadivyadivya.

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