Kansas City rally celebrates life after cancer

06/01/2014 4:00 PM

06/03/2014 2:23 PM

Donna Ostrowski, a Blue Springs resident for 30 years, has her eyes on a seaside community in Oregon. The travel agent wants to move there.

“You can’t have cancer twice and not do what you want to do,” she said Sunday during Kansas City’s 29th annual Celebration of Life Rally at the Richard and Annette Bloch Cancer Survivors Park.

Ostrowski, 66, was one of several hundred to attend the event west of the Country Club Plaza. It was her first time and came as she battles cancer for a second time in less than two years.

The event affirms that there is life after cancer. It brings together cancer survivors and others, like Ostrowski, who are in treatment or have been recently diagnosed with cancer. Their shared stories and experiences provide support for those who need it.

“I’m excited. That’s why I came down. People don’t wear a C on their heads,” she said.

Ostrowski, however, does have Fluffy.

She saw the plush snowman at the Build-A-Bear Workshop in Independence Center after learning early this year that she had breast cancer. Ostrowski had been treated for uterine cancer in November 2012.

“She goes everywhere. She does everything,” Ostrowski said of her carried companion. “It shows me how I’ve survived, and I can’t look at her without smiling.”

Fluffy also has sparked talks with others who have told Ostrowski about how they battled and survived cancer. Many people have gotten pictures taken with Fluffy, said Mary Jo Ward, the registered nurse who coordinates Ostrowski’s care at the University of Kansas Cancer Center.

Kansas City holds the rally on National Cancer Survivors Day, which has a longer history here than anywhere else. It began here 29 years ago and was picked up nationally a couple of years later.

“People tend to forget that we started it,” said Vangie Rich of the R.A. Bloch Cancer Foundation.

Richard Bloch, the R in H&R Block, had survived lung cancer by 26 years. And he turned a personal celebration into a community celebration that became the national rally.

Cancer, or more specifically surviving cancer, increasingly is a national topic. The film adaptation of “The Fault in Our Stars,” a best-selling novel about teens with cancer falling in love, opens Friday. And cancer is the subject of an ABC Family Network series that premieres June 10. “Chasing Life” is about a young single woman, named April and played by Italia Ricci, who is just launching a career when she learns that she has the disease.

Annette Bloch, who attended Sunday, said the rally is for those who have survived and those who are going through cancer. She presented the Richard Bloch Cancer Foundation Survivorship Award to television news anchor John Holt. Holt, a prostate cancer survivor, was honored for his efforts to encourage men to be proactive about cancer.

Too many, he noted in short remarks Sunday, ignore the subject.

“Men, talk about it,” Holt said.

Sunday’s rally also attracted Joe Busher, 70, who lives across from the park and has watched prior rallies from afar. This year, he attended as a cancer patient officially clear after treatment for non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

“It’s only about three weeks that I got the news,” Busher said.

To reach Mark Davis, call 816-234-4372 or send email to mdavis@kcstar.com.

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