Education

Prepare to Be Inspired: American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life of East Kendall

Robbie Kaplan remembers the day she first learned about Relay for Life of East Kendall. Waiting for test results in her doctor’s office eight years ago, she noticed luminaria bags and candles being sold to support the American Cancer Society (ACS), and for use in a Relay ceremony for survivors and those lost to cancer.

She bought one in memory of her father who died of melanoma, thinking she would attend the event the next day. Minutes later, she was told she had colon cancer.

Along with treatment, Grace Wang, M.D., oncologist for Baptist Health South Florida’s Miami Cancer Institute, suggested she get involved with Relay, the signature national event for the ACS, which takes place in communities across the country to honor and empower survivors, remember family and friends and raise money for assistance, prevention and research efforts.

‘A Home for My Giving Back’
Now in its 17th year, Relay is set for March 14, from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m., on the Baptist Hospital campus, 8900 Kendall Drive. Baptist Health’s Miami Cancer Institute is sponsoring the event.

Still committed, Ms. Kaplan, who is cancer free, is now serving her second year as chairperson for the event, which drew about 3000 people in 2014, raising $303,000 for ACS research, education and other services for patients and caregivers.

“I found a home for my giving back,” she said, in an event that is both inspiring and filled with hope. The event honors survivors and celebrates the lives of those lost to the disease.

Each year, teams of Relay participants set up tents along the trail around the lake in front of Baptist Hospital. Rather than a race, the teams must have a member on the track throughout the event, symbolizing the fact that cancer never sleeps.

This year, Relay is infused with added community anticipation for the completion of the new Miami Cancer Institute, under construction across the campus from the event site.  The $430 million institute, opening in 2016, will include the first proton therapy center in South Florida.

Miami Cancer Institute
While the building may be under construction, the Institute is “ready and functioning”, said Leonard Alan Kalman, M.D., hematology and oncology specialist at the Institute. “The Cancer Institute, when you think about it, is really the patients, the caregivers, and the programs we have.”

“What the building will add is a spectacular new home that will allow many of the caregivers and patients to consolidate for the first time in one big house if you will. That facilitates and improves care, because it lends itself to multidisciplinary care.”

Patients will be able to see a full range of oncology specialists, while physicians work together to coordinate care. The Institute features beautiful spaces, high ceilings, wide hallways and an outpouring of natural light in patient waiting areas and in the chemotherapy suite. It also focuses on research, which ACS supports, along with assistance for patients.

14.5 Million Cancer Survivors
Dr. Wang, a member of the board of directors of the ACS of Miami-Dade County, previously served as event chair for Relay, and now serves as sponsor chair. Cancer affects one out of two men, and one out of three women, she said, but there are also some 14.5 million cancer survivors.

“Throughout the years, I’ve been very impressed by what the ACS does for our patients,” Dr. Wang said, including providing free educational materials, transportation to and from treatment for patients who need it, and wigs for patients who cannot afford them. ACS is the No. 1 private fund-raiser of life-saving cancer research – including support for the efforts of 47 researchers, who went on to win the Nobel Prize.

In addition to participating for her patients, Dr. Wang said, “It’s very personal to me. My father passed away from cancer years ago, so I always go and light candles for him. We lit over 5000 candles last year, and it was beautiful. I get goose bumps every time I think about the ceremony.”

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 13 hospitals, more than 23,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 100 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.