Laura Getty has been diagnosed with cancer — twice. She’s been through all the scary treatments, all the stressful insurance claims and frustrating doctor appointments. Ultimately, what she said got her through it all was the support of other cancer survivors.
Getty was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at the age of 21, while she was still in college, and with breast cancer at age 64 in 2014.
“It is good to hear someone listen to what you are concerned about and then for them to be able to relate and say, ‘buck up, honey, you’ll get through this,”’ Getty explained.
Getty actually can see what “surviving” cancer is like for the close family members as well.
“My husband has prostate cancer, and I think it is actually harder being on this side of the fence,” she admitted.
There’s a need for a cancer community – a support network that gets it. Whether you are a mother of a child with cancer or husband to a wife with cancer, or whether you are newly diagnosed yourself or have been dealing with your diagnosis for years – there’s a need to connect with others like you, to interact with people who understand. There’s a place where you can do just that in Greenville. Cancer Survivors Park, located in the heart of downtown off Cleveland Street, has been specifically designated to support victims of cancer and the friends and family members who love them. It has been designed to provide respite to all people touched by cancer.
And, according to Dr. Larry Gluck, medical director of the Cancer Institute at Prisma Health, that’s a lot of people.
“Let’s face it,” he explained. “Almost everyone has been touched by cancer in some way, whether you were diagnosed or know of someone that has it now or know someone that has passed away from it. Pretty much everyone can relate to the inspiration for this park. It’s really for everyone.”
Dr. Gluck was instrumental in bringing the park to fruition. The idea dates back in 1999 when his oldest daughter was in high school.
“She was working on a school project about how nature can influence medical outcomes,” Dr. Gluck recalled. “Once she was finished with the project, I didn’t want to let all that research go. So we began the journey to create a park designated for cancer survivors right here in Greenville.”
Little did he know that the idea spawned by he and his daughter would eventually turn into a $10-million-plus project and would transform a major block of real estate in downtown Greenville.
The Cancer Survivors Park Alliance is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and the park itself is maintained by the city of Greenville. CSPA manages and maintains the programs and events that take place there in a developing partnership with the city.
The majority of the money to build the park came from private donors, foundations, philanthropies and local health care entities such as Prisma Health, Bon Secours and Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System. The city chipped in about 17% of the cost of the project.
Kay Roper, executive director of the Cancer Survivors Park Alliance, said the CSPA vision includes providing survivorship programs and events that are free and open to the public. The Alliance offers a variety of support groups and programs connecting survivors on a weekly and monthly basis, including Pilates, yoga, drum classes, art classes, fly fishing – on a limited basis – nutrition classes and a monthly prevention and wellness series. CSPA continues to connect people who need advice on different aspects of survivorship within the medical community with each other. Many programs take place outdoors, and there is a central Center for Hope and Healing building along the Swamp Rabbit Trail in the park for indoor programs.
CSPA’s next big event, CHOP! Cancer, is scheduled for March 20. Participants will enjoy dinner – including a healthy plant-based option – and cocktails while watching 18 local cancer survivors battle it out in the kitchen for the title of CHOP! Champion.
Getty, a volunteer at the park, said she loves participating in the programs because she always gets to learn something new.
“When you are diagnosed with cancer, you feel like everyone is telling you what you can no longer do. The programs at the park empower me to try something new and I can focus on what I can do, not what I can’t,” she said.
“There’s something for everyone, regardless of age,” Dr. Gluck added, pointing out that he encourages those under his care to visit the park. “My patients say they can use the tranquility in nature to get back in harmony. Their anxiety goes down, and they say that going there just keeps them on track with what they need to do. The park helps to basically change the way you live with cancer. It’s a message to survivors that cancer does not have to be a death sentence.”
“It’s a two-fer for me,” Getty said. “It reduces my stress and I get physical exercise. Being outside gives me the ability to heal.”
Roper concluded, “There’s a cancer community out there, and we want to help. That’s our mission.”
For more information on the Cancer Survivors Park, visit www.cancersurvivorspark.org.
By Theresa Stratford