Hope is like the sun, which, as we journey toward it, cast the shadow of our burden behind us. -- Samuel Smiles "Wherever you are on your journey as a survivor, never lose hope," said cancer survivor Shannon Vick of Berkeley Heights.

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ -  It's been a year since the launch of the partnership between Summit Medical Group and MD Anderson Cancer Center, and together, they have met many milestones.

Summit Medical Group MD Anderson Cancer Center hosted a well attended "The Art of Healing" event last week at their Berkeley Heights campus to honor people afflicted with cancer through art, inspirational music, and story-sharing. The evening paid tribute to survivors and the commitment of Summit Medical Group MD Anderson Cancer Center to promoting healthy and happy survivorship for their patients. 

Sign Up for E-News

The evening included music by Rebekah Johnson, Hyewon Kim, Mike Stewart and Ming Yang, a string quartet from the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, playing their popular Broadway Bound program through the NJSO Music and Wellness Program and art exhibits with local artists in attendance. 

Cancer survivor Shannon Vick of Berkeley Heights shared her story and was a beacon of hope and inspiration to the room of survivors. 

The unimaginable happened to Vick four years ago at age 33, 26 weeks pregnant with her fourth child -- she found a lump in her right breast.  " [I was] young, no family history, and I didn't give cancer much of a thought," said Vick. "I found it because I was pregnant and my breasts were sore."

She was the poster child for low risk for breast cancer. She reiterated to the room of survivors, who also know too well, -- the importance to be proactive -- and not take the mindset that it won't happen to me.

She walked through her journey from diagnosis, 12 weeks of chemo to the birth of her child, a recovery period, to more chemo and radiation, to her mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. "When I really think about what I have been through, it's hard to believe that I did it," she said. "It sounds exhausting and it was." ---  When she looks back,  she considers herself lucky. "The baby girl got me through the first four treatments. Whenever I started to feel sorry for myself, all I had to look at was my four beautiful children and I knew I was lucky because this treatment existed and I was going to be healthy when it was all over," she said. 

When Dr. Diana Addis, Breast Surgeon at Summit Medical Group told Vick that "we have a plan for you and the outlook was good," she told her doctor that there was no other outlook but good. "I had four kids under the age of five and one that I hadn't met yet. And there was no way I was planning to let them grow up without a mother. I was ready to do whatever it took to get healthy."

"The amount of collaboration and seamless communication between the doctors in the group made all the difference in getting me and my unborn child through this ordeal safely," she said. 

Vick has the utmost gratitude and respect for everyone at Summit Medical Group, from the "receptionists who remembers your name, and the nurse navigators who hold your hand through the pain and make you smile despite of it, to the doctors who diagnose and treat you -- doing everything in their power to make sure you walk out those doors as a healthy person."

This collaboration and seamless communication is a focus at Summit Medical Group MD Anderson. Lynn Lang, R.N., Chief Integration Officer, provided some prospective of the advancements since Summit Medical Group's partnership with MD Anderson Cancer Center. She told the attendees the center places special emphasis on continuity of care by providing fully integrated, multidisciplinary cancer care for their patients.

The partnership with the No. 1 cancer center is a "true partnership," said Dr. Molly Gabel, Medical Director of Radiation Oncology. "We share our best practices and they share with us," she said. "They provided a lot of guidance and expert advise. As a result, we have met a lot milestones over the past year."

One big change since the partnership is the clinical research program, said Dr. Gabel. "Because of MD Anderson, we have clinical trials here that offer wonderful new drugs that can increase chance of cure for cancer." 

"What we want is, as a group, to offer same chance of survival with less side effects. We are looking at trials to operate with smaller incisions, shorten hospital stays, decrease the amount of days lost from work or time away from family, to minimize the side effects of chemo therapy and radiation. That embodies our culture and our commitment to really promoting healthy and happy comfortable survivorship for our patients," she said.

Major advances in prevention, early detection and treatment have resulted in long survival, said Dr. Lisa Mills, Oncologist and Hematologist. She raised awareness of ongoing challenges faced by cancer survivors today.

The follow up care beyond cancer assesses effectiveness of treatment, recovery from treatment and addresses short term and long term side effects along with any new health issues that arise, she said.

She talked about survivor programs and medical management advise to survivors to create long term goals and tools to aide in side effects for fatigue, pain and chemo brain offered through Summit Medical Group MD Anderson Cancer Center.  

The guests had the opportunity to ask the musicians questions and meet the artists who have their work on exhibit in the Summit Medical Group cafeteria in Berkeley Heights. Artists included in " Voices of the Journey" Art Show are Marion Behr, Scultpor; EJ Davis, Photographer; Trish Gianakis, Painter; and Paula Pearl, Pastel artist. A few attendees went home as winners of pieces of art donated to the survivor event.

About Summit Medical Group MD Anderson: Cancer patients in Northern New Jersey and the New York Metropolitan area now have access to enhanced cancer treatment, as part of Summit Medical Group’s partnership with MD Anderson Cancer Center. This integrated program, which provides medical oncology, infusion and diagnostic imaging, is in place at Summit Medical Group’s flagship campus at 1 Diamond Hill Road in Berkeley Heights. It includes access to MD Anderson’s world-renowned treatment protocols, extensive clinical trials and cutting-edge research. Together, Summit Medical Group and MD Anderson are building a state-of-the-art cancer treatment center in Florham Park, NJ. A global leader in cancer care, MD Anderson is ranked the leading cancer center in the United States. You can learn more about MD Anderson at mdanderson.org.

Our partnership provides comprehensive cancer care to our patients—from prevention, screening, and diagnosis to survivorship—preserving the patient-physician relationships that have existed for many years. Personalized treatment plans help ensure the best possible outcomes while we help you adjust to, cope with, and manage your disease.