Cancer patients and their loved ones gathered at the University’s Comprehensive Cancer Center on Friday night to spread a message of hope and support during its sixth annual candle-lighting ceremony.
“This is a ceremony of unique joy and sorrow, a place for people to share their grief and move on with their cancer journey,” event coordinator Sue Wintermeyer-Pingel said.
The centerpiece of the Candle Lighting Ceremony for Hope and Remembrance was a series of speeches by the “Voices,” a group of patients, families and medical personnel that described the “cancer journey” they undertook together.
This part of the ceremony was divided into four different parts. In “Beginning,” the Voices told how cancer made an entrance into their lives; in “Adjusting,” they described how they adapted to living with cancer, in “Dying,” they spoke of the passing away of loved ones, and finally in “Living With,” patients described how it felt to live with cancer.
Among the Voices was Karen Wingrove, who described her struggle with cancer. She recently had become engaged when she was diagnosed with the disease and then treated with chemotherapy, which caused her to be infertile. But after undergoing treatment, she was able to give birth to a daughter.
Wintermeyer-Pingel said the theme of the event, “Everyday Heroes,” should be an example for everyone. She and cancer center Director Max Wicha described how the center seeks to make cancer bearable for patients and how patients have responded to its programs.
A moment of quiet reflection and a reading from “The Prophet” by Lebanese-American poet Kahlil Gibran followed the speeches. Then candles distributed at the beginning of the ceremony were lit. A slideshow with photos of cancer patients began, in unison with the reciting of poems and songs.
The ceremony finished with the extinguishing of the candles and the viewing of cancer patients’ mementos, such as cups, candles and paintings – many of which were made by the patients themselves.
Karie McCall, an art therapist at the center, helped patients create the mementos. She said the ceremony was a way to symbolically provide relief for sufferers.
“The main objective of this event is to try to ease the psychological tension of both the patients and the families via art therapy, and to seek to give them support. This is a ceremony of hope,” she said.
Participant Jason Miller said he was moved by the ceremony, which was “valuable, uplifting – something to come back to. The University of Michigan has created a successful ceremony that provided a positive feedback within the ceremony.”