That’s the message Charlie Lustman is delivering to audiences nationwide as part of his “Musical HOPE Campaign.” One of the next stops on his campaign trail is the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s annual Cancer Survivors’ Day celebration on June 5.
The hundreds of cancer survivors, caregivers, health providers, family and friends expected to attend will hear the 45-year-old composer, performer and cancer survivor tell his story through a series of pop songs chronicling his cancer experience — from diagnosis and treatment through recovery.
Some songs give a lighthearted spin to otherwise scary cancer-related experiences. His album’s title track, “Made Me Nuclear,” was inspired by his CT scans.
“Music reaches even deeper than words allow,” Lustman says. “If what I’m doing takes the edge off of scary experiences and people can see the light at the end of the tunnel from my experience, then I think, ‘mission accomplished’.”
This year’s event will be held from 1–3:30 p.m., Sunday, June 5, at Washtenaw Community College in the Morris Lawrence Building as part of National Cancer Survivors’ Day. The event is free and open to cancer survivors as well as their families, friends and care providers.
The national event began in 1987 as a way to inspire cancer patients and to show that life after a cancer diagnosis is possible. Lustman’s performance is a perfect fit for both efforts.
In March 2006, Lustman was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare form of cancer, in his upper jaw bone. He lost three-quarters of his jaw to the disease.
“I’m still singing,” Lustman says. “I have a prosthetic and now I sing better than I ever have before. My message truly is about overcoming life challenges.”
As a 20-year cancer survivor, Shaun “Marty” Martin knows the difficulties facing current cancer patients. He says the Cancer Center’s event is an opportunity to forget the bad and celebrate surviving.
Martin, a longtime member of the Survivors’ Day planning committee, says a new theme and keynote speaker are selected each year, but one element never changes.
“The atmosphere is always very fun,” Martin says. “This is a time to celebrate being a survivor. For the time that we have them at the event, we try to make it as fun and educational as possible.”
Information tables will be set up and attendees can learn more about survivorship issues, caregiver support and other concerns. Various community agencies and U-M support services representatives will be available to answer questions.
For those who attend, the event offers a chance to connect with hundreds of others with similar experiences.
“When you see the number of survivors all there all celebrating, you realize no one is alone in this whole thing,” Martin says.
To R.S.V.P. for Survivors’ Day, please call Catricia Thomas at 734-998-7071 or register on-line.