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Cancer survivors hold celebration
"Laughter: The Music of Life" was the theme for the Cancer Survivor's Day party in the Edwards Cancer Center atrium at Harris Methodist H.E.B. hospital.
Having Fun Surviving

Wearing goofy hats in goofy ways and choosing a new name were part of the fun at the Cancer Survivors Day celebration recently at Harris Methodist H.E.B.

The atrium was filled with cancer survivors, including Ralph Wheat of Bedford, who has remained healthy for more than 50 years, and Shirley Davidoff, a cancer survivor of more than 30 years. Leading the pack was motivational speaker Hedda Matza-Haughton of New York, who encouraged the silly headgear and new names. Call her Princess Juicy Joy, OK?


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Speaker: “We’re alive, and … it’s a day … to celebrate that fact”

By John English, Contributing Writer
from The Colleyville Journal - 6/3/2005

For Princess Juicy Joy and other cancer survivors, laughter is the music of life.

That is why the 13th annual Cancer Survivor’s Day celebration at Harris Methoist HEB Hospital on Sunday is sure to be full of laughs. The celebration is scheduled for 2-4p.m in the Edwards Cancer Center Atrium and is free to the public.

Princess Juicy Joy, the alter ego of Hedda Matza-Haughton, this year’s guest speaker and a breast cancer survivor, said she is excited about the event.

“I have the opportunity every Cancer Survivor’s Day to be with two or three hundred cancer survivors and their support groups,” Matza-Haughton said. “There is a certain feeling, a certain communication and intimacy among those who have gone through a life-threatening experience either themselves or as a support member.”

Sue Grylls, or Colleyville, a seven-year lung cancer survivor and Harris Methodist Hospital volunteer, said the event is a celebration of life.

“We’re alive, and basically it’s a day set aside to celebrate that fact,” she said. “It’s a time to have fun and celebrate the fact that in this day and age a lot more people are surviving,” Grylls said.

Matza-Haughton, a Long Island native and creator of For the Health of It Consulting Services, said she does the program for corporations and health care organization, but also, “I do it for patients and families, but particularly for Cancer Survivor’s Day. It’s really inspirational,” she said.

“I’m a survivor, and the people who come are survivors along with their families and support systems, who are really crucial to their (the survivor’s) health.”

The program centers on the physical and psychological benefits of laughter.

“Laughter decreases conflict and anger and changes your perception,” said Matza-Haughton. “When you laugh it increases the oxygen to your brain, and that stimulates your creativity. Psychologically, it helps you deal with a stressful and emotionally-charged situation, and it interrupts your panic cycle.”

Matza-Haughton makes sure that everyone gets involved.

“It’s very interactive,” she said. “I bring all kinds of props, and there’s funny hats, and I become all kinds of different characters.”

Director of Operations for the hospital, Alice Landers, said that the celebration has become a tradition at the hospital.

“From the staff viewpoint, it’s nice to see them outside of a clinical situation,” Landers said.

Jenny Ellis, a nurse in the oncology unit of HEB for the past eight years, said that although the perception is that it can be discouraging to work with cancer patients, the reality for her is that it is very rewarding.

“I think it’s a privilege to work with people who have life-threatening illnesses,” Ellis said. “A lot of people think that taking care of people with cancer is depressing, but it is a privilege because you get to help people who have a real need.”

Grylls, a member of the hospital cancer support group, said she encounters the same misconception at some of the group’s meetings.

“Everyone thinks that the first time they walk into the support group that it’s probably going to be a depressing place, and it is so far from depressing,” she said.

Grylls said there are two ways of looking at cancer, and she believes attitude has as much to do with a patient’s recovery as medication and chemotherapy.

“You can approach it with an oh, poor me attitude or approach it with and ‘I’m going to beat this darn thing’ attitude,” Grylls said.

Grylls has adopted a creed by which she deals with the threat of terminal illness.

“Cancer is a word, it’s not a sentence,” she said. “I can’t take credit for the quote, but I heard it, and I’ve always remembered it. We haven’t won the war yet, but we’re making progress, and it’s exciting.”

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