By KANDICE BELL
In honor of Celebrate Life week, hundreds of patients will be honored at Cancer Treatment Center of Atlanta, recognizing cancer survivors who’ve marked five or more years since they began treatment at CTCA.
All five CTCA facilities comprehensive care and research centers are uniting for the weeklong celebration of life and survivorship.
Kristin Schaner – CTCA director external affairs and communications – said the hospital wanted to switch things up this year and do “something that would display the names of hundreds of CTCA Atlanta’s five-year survivors in a new, meaningful way.”
A mural depicting Line Creek is one of the ways survivors are being commemorated. The mural was painted by Ed Buonvecchio, an artist from Maine.
Buonvecchio began on the project earlier last month and the mural was displayed Monday.
Survivors names depicted as leaves are posted on the mural and more will be added over time, Schaner said.
Line Creek Nature Area is a public preserve along Line Creek off Highway 54 on the Fayette-Coweta County line. The creek is part of the Southern Conservation Trust, which is dedicated to preserving and highlighting nature throughout Georgia and the Southeast.
Buonvecchio previously painted three murals – with various Georgia landscapes – in CTCA Newnan’s radiation oncology suites. The artist also painted murals in the CTCA facilities at Phoenix, Ariz. and Tulsa, Okla.
Buonvecchio said painting the murals was fulfilling and made him feel like he was part of CTCA’s path and journey.
The Newnan mural was completed last Friday. Buonvecchio worked on the mural for a few weeks, often painting between six and 10 hours per day.
During the unveiling Monday, Buonvecchio said it was “the most emotional day I’ve had as an artist.
“It was incredible,” he said. “There were tears all over the place. People I didn’t know that were celebrants came up to me crying. One of them was so emotional, she couldn’t even say anything.”
Buonvecchio said the murals were meant to bring down the patient’s anxiety and take them to another place.
“Apparently it worked,” he said.
The artist said the mural isn’t just about the survivor’s names, but “it’s everything behind every person’s name.”
“It’s the tears, the pain. It’s the people and the friends and family, all the prayers, nurses, doctors and the happiness,” he said. “Those names are the heroes and everything behind them.”
Buonvecchio said he hopes the mural gives survivors and patients pride for their fight for survival and hope.
“It’s a symbol of the fight that they’ve waged throughout the years,” he said.
Tuesday, a Yellow Rose Parade was held. Celebrants gave a yellow rose pin –symbolic of true friendship – to anyone who has made a difference in their lives.
Today, a “red carpet” sendoff will be held for 438 survivors before being honored with a ceremonial tree planted in his or her name to symbolize courage and hope for years to come.
“Emotions run high for the entire hospital team during this awesome celebration,” said Dr. Haritha Pabbathi, medical oncologist. “Celebrate Life connects us to our purpose and to our patients and colleagues in an incredibly meaningful way.”
One of Pabbathi’s patients, Decie Strong of Mansfield, looks forward to celebrating with her family and care team.
“I’m grateful for the care I received while treating at CTCA Atlanta and look forward to marking additional milestones in the years to come,” said Strong.
CTCA in Newnan opened August 2012. With the recent passage of House Bill 186, the specialty hospital will be able to serve more Georgia patients.
The week will conclude Friday with a Celebrate Newnan Luau and market day with different resources from the community.
To see Buonvecchio’s murals at the other CTCA locations, visit www.eddibon.shutterfly.com.