It’s easy to see just how many people are affected by breast cancer at an event like the Breast Cancer Symposium.
On Thursday, hundreds of people — many of them women who are breast cancer survivors or who have recently been diagnosed with the disease and their families — gathered for the 10th annual event, held at The Center for Rural Development.
“It’s a time we can reflect on our past, present and future, and get acquainted with new friends,” said Shirley George, a 20-year survivor of breast cancer.
Susan Ramsey Wilson, director of marketing and community relations at Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital — which hosts the symposium in partnership with Alton Blakley family of dealerships — said more than 400 people attended the luncheon on Thursday, which requires advanced registration.
“It’s the largest luncheon we’ve ever had,” Wilson said. “We filled up the whole South Hall (of The Center).”
There were so many breast cancer survivors at Thursday’s luncheon that organizers even ran out of participation items, meant to be handed out to the survivors.
“It’s a blessing to be able to be a part of it,” Wilson said. “To see people from year to year and to be able to celebrate another year with them.”
Survivors — ranging from a 27- and a 28-year-old to women who have survived more than 40 years after fighting the disease — were honored during the luncheon, and those who died fighting the disease were honored in an emotional ceremony as well.
Apples with names of those who passed away written on them were hung from a tree by their loved ones. The apples were in line with this year’s symposium theme, “Pinknic,” which featured picnic-like food and decorations.
This year’s guest speaker was Cindy Moore, known best for her impersonation of the Minnie Pearl character — a performance fine-tuned by the actual late Minnie Pearl, who Moore worked with during her entertainment career.
“It’s just wonderful to see them all smiling,” Moore said. “ ... We had a good time. We laughed, we cried and we sang.”
Moore, an 11-year survivor of cervical cancer, led the luncheon attendees through a rousing and inspiring comedy routine that featured songs and jokes.
“Cancer is cancer,” Moore said. She noted that she decided to take her battle with cancer and use it to reach out through her performances for events such as the symposium. “I decided to take it in a different direction and have fun with it.”
Moore, who sold CDs and handmade Minnie Pearl-esque hats during the informational expo after the luncheon, received numerous compliments from attendees.
“Oh, I sang my little heart out,” said one survivor.
The informational fair, open to anyone, saw hundreds and hundreds of attendees and featured booths from local businesses, health care professionals, non-profit organizations and more. Attendees were able to gather information about staying healthy — which is one way to help prevent a cancer diagnosis — and they were able to have some fun and take pictures, get pampered with hand and shoulder massages, and even get their nails painted.
“There’s such a spirit of kinship,” said Wilson. “ ... but it’s more than that. It’s deeper than that.”