MORRISTOWN, NJ – Edgy comedian Daniel Stolfi, a young adult cancer survivor, brought the audience to its feet when he performed “Cancer Makes You Gangster– Finding the Comedy in Tragedy,” on Sunday at the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Morristown Medical Center. It was the highlight of the cancer center’s annual National Cancer Survivors Day Celebration.
Attendees learned the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center is expanding its medical staff and developing a strategic plan to expand its services to offer more creative programs related to screening, prevention, treatment and survivorship.
Three months ago, Dr. Missak Haigentz was named chief of hematology and oncology at Atlantic Health System’s Morristown Medical Center and medical director of Atlantic Hematology and Oncology for Atlantic Medical Group at the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center.
A longtime New Jersey resident, he served as director of the clinical trials office at Albert Einstein Cancer Center in New York and led several national and multicenter trails of cancer drugs. “I very happy about the job and what I did there, but I always wanted to come and give back to my own community. I get to do that … and work alongside a multidisciplinary team that is second to none in providing cancer care.”
Survivors at the event included many who in remission, some were receiving treatment, others were just beginning their cancer journey.
Alice Lee of Rockaway said she was diagnosed with breast cancer “last summer.” She finished her chemotherapy and is now getting “targeted therapy,” infusions of Herceptin, she said.
Donald Guldner of Rutherford, who was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2011 and is in remission, attended with his son, Don. His daughter is Heather Rose, the coordinator of volunteers at the Cancer Center.
Ruth Necco of Morristown, another breast cancer survivor, encouraged “anyone who is a patient here to take advantage of the Integrated Medicine” services offered by the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center. She said she tried Music Therapy, Drum Therapy and Reiki and liked them all. She joined a support group and visited a nutritionist before beginning chemotherapy “to see what I should and shouldn’t eat.”
Maidie Erickson of Randolph, didn’t call herself a survivor, “I’m a fighter,” she said. Diagnosed with breast cancer in January, she is undergoing chemotherapy now. She will have a double mastectomy in late July because she has the BRCA 2 gene, and plans to have another surgery to prevent ovarian cancer.
Speaking to the audience before the show began Dr. Haigentz said, “You have no idea how happy I am when I see a cancer survivor. You are far more than survivors, each one of you is a conqueror … You are the hope … that we can see an end to cancer.”
In his show, Stolfi, a performer, comedian, playwright and speaker, recounted his life from the time he had a cold that wouldn’t go away, to a misdiagnosis, a return visit to the walk-in clinic which led to tests followed by a trip to the emergency room, a diagnosis, two years of treatment and recovery.
His show was edgy, funny, sometimes poignant and full of music. He read from the notebook he kept during his two-year chemotherapy protocol. At times he portrayed his cancer, his libido and other facets of his personality. He also sang and danced. To see what his show is like, visit his Facebook page CancerCantDanceLikeThis
The audience related to Stolfi’s situation, roared with laughter, occasionally sniffed and often interrupted the show with applause.
When the show ended, Heather Rose, said she was hesitant to book Stolfi “because I am scared of curse words,” but was glad she did, “We’ve been on this journey with you, we cried with you and we laughed with you.”
He thanked her, and the audience for letting him share his story. “One of the greatest things you can try to do when going through this is to laugh a little bit … and dance. Keep dancing.”