Pink Ribbon Symposium meeting local needs

Pink Ribbon Symposium meeting local needs

Drs. Cynthia Anderson and Linda Sylvester

Before physicians Linda Sylvester and Cynthia Anderson met at Orange Park Cancer Center in 2006, both had admired and worked with a Philadelphia charity called Living Beyond Breast Cancer. Founded in 1991 by radiation oncologist Marisa C. Weiss, M.D., that program was created in response to the public need for information, education, connection, support and Weiss’ desire to empower breast cancer patients. Drs. Sylvester and Anderson got a big idea; the Pink Ribbon Symposium was born.
“Jacksonville needed a program,” Dr. Sylvester said. “It started as a grassroots organization to promote the idea to local healthcare and wellness experts including physicians, nurses, psychiatrists, nutritionists, sleep therapists, yoga and exercise instructors, cancer patients, survivors, their families and friends.” Board certified in medical oncology/internal medicine, Dr. Sylvester practices with Cancer Specialists of North Florida in Orange Park.
Valerie Robinson — a San Jose resident, breast cancer survivor and medical marketing specialist — is a longtime cancer society volunteer. She joined forces with the physicians to help create and successfully launch Jacksonville’s first Pink Ribbon Symposium in 2008.
“These physicians had a vision. From my own personal experience, family and friends who have battled cancer, I wanted the symposium to succeed. It needed to reach as many caregivers, patients and supporters as possible; be a great forum for information, education, and it just keeps growing every year,” Robinson said.
According to Drs. Sylvester and Anderson, a cancer diagnosis is so stressful for the patient, they often hear nothing else the physician says. Health issues that affect cancer patients and survivors are equally important to the public — but become critical to the cancer patient’s outcome and recovery.
“I spend time building a personal relationship with each patient, writing everything  down so they are fully informed about the diagnosis and options…they often feel they have lost control of their health and life. Education can return that feeling of some control,” Dr. Anderson said. “What I love about the Pink Ribbon Symposium is that it’s also a way to interact with patients outside the clinic and is a powerful tool to spread information far beyond what I can do alone. It’s also a great way for me to give back to my community.” Dr. Anderson is a radiation oncologist with Florida Radiation Oncology Group at Memorial Hospital.
The goal of the symposium is to publicize updates in breast cancer research, treatment, health and quality of life issues: exercise, nutrition, stress, obesity, neuropathy, lipidemia, sexuality, osteoporosis and maintaining wellness. Dr. Sylvester noted that the latest molecular and genetic information not only applies to breast cancer, but to all cancers.
Stacy Jordan, mammography technologist/supervisor at Orange Park Medical Center, eight-year volunteer and vice president of operations for the cancer society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer annual fundraiser, called the symposium and Making Strides important for Northeast Florida.
“This combination of events…the cooperation between passionate physicians, organizers, volunteers and supporters spreads awareness of resources all over the area. Patients need not travel long distances to receive care, education, information and support services they need…they can stay close to home. And every year more participate, raising awareness and thousands of dollars for breast cancer research,” Jordan said.
The free fifth Pink Ribbon Symposium will be held Saturday, Oct. 6, 8 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Riverfront. Guest speaker Peggy Fleming is a breast cancer survivor, former Olympian and U.S. Figure Skating Champion. The symposium will also include a panel of Spanish speakers, a session on hereditary breast cancers and men diagnosed with breast cancer. There will be approximately 70 exhibitors and a silent auction. Immediately following the symposium attendees will join Jeannie Blaylock of Buddy Check 12 to celebrate its 20th anniversary with a Ta Ta Cha Cha across the Main Street Bridge. The public is invited to participate along with symposium attendees. Aerial photos will be taken and the Main Street Bridge will be closed from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
For more information and free classes in the Ta Ta Cha Cha, visit the Pink Ribbon Symposium website.


By Julie Kerns Garmendia
Resident Community News

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