WILKES-BARRE — For the Pintha family, attending Cancer Survivor Day is bittersweet.
The first time twin sisters Stephanie Earl and Heather Pintha attended the event their sister, Jennifer, was recently diagnosed with Leukemia.
Now, the family comes to honor Jennifer’s memory and connect with other cancer patients and survivors.
“Looking at it now from the aspect of her passing, it’s harder,” Earl said of coming back to the event. Jennifer lost her battle with Leukemia in April 2015.
The sisters were present, along with their mother and father, at the 24th annual Cancer Survivors Day held in Kirby Park Saturday. The day is sponsored by the Northeast Regional Cancer Institute, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help ease the burden of people suffering with cancer in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Earl, who now works for the Northeast Regional Cancer Institute, joined her sister in singing the national anthem and Lady Antebellum’s inspirational song “One Day You Will.”
Pat Lawless, project manager for the Northeast Regional Cancer Institute, said the day is a national event that is held as a “survivor celebration,” as well as a place where past and present patients, supporters and more can gather to share their stories, remember those who have lost their battles and spread a message of hope.
One of the day’s highlights included a “Circle of Survivors,” where over 30 people gathered and were given the opportunity to speak about their experiences. Once the circle was completed, everyone pulled out a small bell to ring after a moment of silence.
“We’re always continuously moved and pleasantly surprised by the strength and impact of that simple circle of sharing,” Lawless said.
Elenore Ferkel attended the event with her daughter, Melody Prieb, and granddaughter, Amelia.
Ferkel, who was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2012, has been attending Cancer Survivor Day for the past three years.
“It’s supportive, and it helps my mom to know that she’s not alone,” Prieb said.
“I look forward to it,” Ferkel said of hearing everyone’s stories. “It’s sad, but yet you leave with a good feeling.”
Aside from the circle, attendees were able to admire a handmade quilt that was donated for the event. It featured blocks of sunflowers and quotes from the poem “What Cancer Cannot Do.” Participants were able to add their own phrases on a board and sign their name with a message on a piece of cloth.
The institute also had varying colored ribbons to hand out with caregiver buttons and informational packets.
There will be another Cancer Survivors Day in Lackawanna County from 10 a.m. to noon on Sept. 24 at McDade Park in Scranton.
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