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Piedmont Athens Cancer Support Center Hosts Panel Discussion for Cancer Survivor Month

Athens, Ga. (June 26, 2019) – Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center’s cancer support center hosted a panel discussion for people in the community currently battling cancer, as well as for survivors of cancer in recognition of June’s National Cancer Survivors Month.

Four panelists gathered for the discussion, each sharing his or her own survivor story with those attending the event. Although each speaker had very different survivor stories, having battled different types of cancer and treatment, there was one common theme among their stories: The importance of support in the cancer journey.

The Loran Smith Center for Cancer Support opened its doors in 2000, providing free resources and services to anyone affected by cancer, regardless of where a person receives their treatment. The center focuses on providing support services, like counseling and other therapies, to the patients and their family members.

“Every year in June, people across the world recognize National Cancer Survivors Month to celebrate the lives of the many cancer survivors,” said Joel Siebentritt, manager of support services at Piedmont Athens Regional’s Loran Smith Center. “The Loran Smith Center is filled with people at all different stages of the cancer journey, and we wanted to do something special this year not only so our patients could see what survivorship looks like, but also so these cancer survivors could be celebrated for what they’ve overcome.”

Each panelist shared their story, covering the many milestones of their cancer journeys. Stories were shared from:

  • John Davis was diagnosed with Non Hodgkin's Lymphoma in 1991 – years before the Loran Smith Center opened its doors. His treatment process went very smoothly; however, at the time, Davis found there were no support groups or gatherings for cancer survivors in the community to come together and talk about their experiences and learn from each other. He began leading monthly discussions, and when the Loran Smith Center opened its doors in 2000, these meetings became an important part of the center’s offerings.
  • Rosemary Wood is a breast cancer survivor, who was diagnosed in 2014 after receiving a routine mammogram screening. She considers herself fortunate in that she didn’t need any chemotherapy or radiation therapy treatments, but she did have surgery to remove her breast (a mastectomy). She’s utilized the Loran Smith Center’s support services in a number of ways, including counseling when a family member was diagnosed years before she received her own cancer diagnosis. During the panel discussion, Wood noted that no one has experience with cancer until they’ve been diagnosed, and when that happens, you have to make very important decisions quickly about something you’re not familiar with. Turning to others battling cancer through the Loran Smith Center helped her through her journey.
  • Branwyn Bailey doesn’t consider herself a survivor yet, as her journey with cancer continues, but she brought a lot of insight to share with attendees. Six years ago, she was diagnosed with Mantle cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. She has since received chemotherapy treatments and has worked through the many challenges that a cancer diagnosis brings. Bailey believes in the power of tracking your own cancer journey, as she has kept an online blog since the beginning.
  • Barbi Brown was quick to explain that she received her initial cancer diagnosis in 2012, when doctors found she had a tumor in her colon. Her treatment was straightforward – she only received surgery to remove the tumor, with no follow-up chemotherapy or radiation therapy treatments. Her treatment went smoothly until 2016, when she became very ill. The constant nausea and vomiting brought her to the emergency room and she soon found that her initial cancer had spread to her small intestine. She immediately received emergency surgery, so she could return to eating and drinking; however, subsequent chemotherapy treatments were not helpful in shrinking the tumor. Thankfully, she was a candidate for a specialized surgery (called the Whipple procedure) that was not only able to remove her tumor, but also other cancerous cells surrounding it. She later received both chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Though her experience was unique and she went through many obstacles, Brown believes she’s still here today because of her positive outlook and strong support system.

When the discussion ended, attendees were able to meet each of the panelists and share their own stories.

According to Siebentritt, National Cancer Survivors Month and the discussion were about more than just cancer survivors.

“It’s important to recognize all people who have been affected by cancer: Those who have fought and survived, those who are currently fighting, those who have been recently diagnosed, and those who have lost their lives to cancer.”

For more information about services offered at the Loran Smith Center for Cancer Support, visit

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