Hospitals across Iowa and nationwide are holding celebrations today as part of National Cancer Survivor Day.

Rae Debner, manager of the Hall-Perrine Cancer Center at Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids, says their festival will have a block party atmosphere. “We will be having face-painting, we have a dunk tank, we’ve got refreshments including hot dogs and ice cream,” Debner says. “We’ll also have bingo, some yard games, and you can also come to the event and write a letter to somebody who’s currently undergoing treatment.”

It’s estimated there will be more than 18,000 new cancer cases diagnosed in Iowa this year, with about 6,400 cancer deaths statewide.
“The design of the event is really to bring in the family, the kids, the survivors and focus on the celebration of their diagnosis,” Debner says. “People who are diagnosed with cancer, from that very moment, that’s when they are a survivor. We are all in the fight together and we want to celebrate that whole process.”

The cancer center sponsored a successful program in February where kids wrote Valentine’s Day cards to random people undergoing cancer treatment. That idea launched a portion of today’s event, where people can write to other patients as a source of inspiration.
“It was so good to see people read those cards and have a smile,” Debner says. “Everybody is looking for hope, everyone needs that support system. Even if it’s a complete stranger who’s been through the process before you, to have the words of encouragement right there before you as you’re going through some of the hardest parts of your treatment, that’s the point, to reach out to someone you don’t know and offer them hope and encouragement.”

The event in Cedar Rapids runs from 4:30 to 6:30 P.M.