Eighth annual 5K Walk/Run to benefit the Center for Cancer Care

It has been almost a year since Anne Cristanti walked out the lobby doors of the Center for Cancer Care at Griffin Hospital in Derby and completed her nine months of intensive chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

For some, there is no desire to return to the place where they underwent a long and physically draining treatment regimen, but Cristanti says it’s not hard to come back to the center for her aftercare visits because it reminds her of how she was treated humanely and compassionately during her battle with cancer.

On Saturday, June 4, the Oxford resident will return to the center to share her cancer journey and her thanks for the center as the featured speaker at the Eighth Annual 5K Walk/Run to benefit the Center for Cancer Care. A survivor of triple negative breast cancer that required 28 weeks of chemotherapy and 30 weeks of radiation treatments, she is proud to share her cancer journey and hopes to provide encouragement for those undergoing treatment, as well as highlight the strength of her fellow cancer survivors. Above all, Cristanti said she hopes her talk will provide the same support, warmth and hope she experiences at the Center throughout her continued treatment.

“I think all cancer centers should be like this place,” Cristanti said of the Center for Cancer Care and the Smilow Cancer Care Center oncology service located in the Center for Cancer Care. “When you enter the building, the atmosphere of the place just looks beautiful to the eye and all the staff greet you with smiles and hellos. The nurses, the techs, phlebotomists, secretaries, doctors, social workers - just everyone - cares about you not as just a patient, but as a whole person. Every time I came here, they knew me by name, and my care was really personable. It was unbelievable, and it made me feel like I wasn’t alone and very cared for.”

A perfect example of this personal compassion happened on Cristanti’s first visit to the Center. The chemotherapy drugs made her extremely nauseous and sick. As she was checking in, the office staff responded with compassion for her wellbeing and sympathy for her feelings, letting Cristanti know that her comfort was just as important as her treatment. They had her take a seat and brought her all the items she needed for that visit.

The caring and calming nature of the staff at the Center for Cancer Care was supported by the Center’s serene, spa-like atmosphere, which includes a healing garden and waterfall that patients can look out on while receiving treatments. Cristanti took up many of the center’s wellness offerings, which include like free massages, Soft Touch and Reiki, as well as patient services like post-operative Pilates classes for breast cancer survivors, support groups, and physical therapy and speech therapy.

Cristanti also received a free wig and salon services through the fund supported by the 5K Walk/Run. Proceeds from the event support the Center’s free patient service programs and cover special patient needs such as wigs, transportation needs, groceries, and medical supplies like lymphedema sleeves.

Being treated as a whole person and being in a calm and relaxing environment is unfortunately not commonplace during her cancer treatment, Cristanti said. She recalls a number of times when she went to another center for treatment and felt like just another number being sent though a system.

“You get spoiled because you expect the same treatment as you got at Griffin, and when you go to other places, you get miffed,” she said. “It’s funny, but I looked forward to going to the Center for Cancer Care even though I hated going for the treatment.”

It will also be a return to the Walk/Run for Cristanti. She walked in the event last year and enjoyed the community spirit of the event. She believes the event also brings an important awareness to the state of breast cancer in the Connecticut, where an estimated 1 in 8 women will be affected.

“It’s a horrible illness and you get to meet many heroes along the way who are right there with you to help you though it,” she said. “The nurses, support staff, social workers and doctors are truly wonderful in that they understand the depth of this illness and give it their all.”

The 5K Walk/Run invites all area cancer survivors to come to the event. There will be a special Survivors’ Tent with food, gifts and information about local cancer support resources. The Survivors’ Tent will be open at 8 a.m. on Saturday June 4. The tent is sponsored by Jefferson Radiology.

Check-in for the 5K Walk/Run begins at 7:30 a.m. in the Center for Cancer Care parking lot, 350 Seymour Ave., Derby. The Walk/Run is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. To register or for more information, visit griffinhealth.org/5k or email 5kwalkrun@griffinhealth.org.