Halifax Health held a "Celebration of Life" breakfast in commemoration of National Cancer Survivors Day.
Charleen Fiorentino's journey began in February 2017 when she was having her gallbladder removed. During surgery, her doctor discovered lesions that tested positive for cancer.
A PET scan determined Fiorentino had ovarian cancer.
"I was devastated and I was scared for myself, but mainly I was overwhelmed for fear for my 94-year-old parents and my little 17-year-old dog Buddy because I am their caregiver," Fiorentino said.
Then, on a bright sunny day, she met with her team of doctors and nurses who would be her team as she went through treatment. Through the support of the people around her, Fiorentino found the encouragement she so desperately needed. For Fiorentino, anxiety turned to hope as they put their plan into action and went into battle against the cancer.
That was 16 months ago, and on Saturday, June 2, Fiorentino stood in front of a large group of people and told them she was a cancer survivor and in remission as of December 2017. And she is still able to take care of her parents and her little dog Buddy.
"I am 72 years young and still counting," Fiorentino said. "Clearly I am blessed."
Within the crowd Fiorentino was speaking to were many more cancer survivors, some just in remission, others 30 years without a sign of cancer. All the attendees had come together on Saturday for Halifax Health’s Celebration of Life breakfast event, which is held each year in commemoration of National Cancer Survivors Day.
Another cancer survivor, Todd Johnson, was also present to share his story. Johnson has been diagnosed with thyroid cancer before doctors found a pituitary tumor the next summer and shortly after he was diagnosed with kidney cancer. After this, he was diagnosed with melanoma.
Three months ago he could barely move, but on Saturday he was standing in front of the crowd and showing them a few of the exercises he does every morning. Johnson said that when he tells people about his story he doesn't want them to say sorry. Instead, he looks at what happened in a different light.
"Don't be sorry because this is what's made me who I am," Johnson said before adding, "I am 50 years old, I am going to make it to 90."
The last cancer survivor to speak was Mary Ann Seeley, a nurse who had breast cancer. Seeley said that one day she woke up with the most devastating realization she had ever faced, but that she now looks at the world differently. She said that with everything she has been through she has been blessed and would like to give back.
"Because I'm a nurse I truly wish and pray that I have the opportunity to be there for many others," Seeley said. "And I can hold their hand and walk the journey with them."