RWJ Hamilton and Roxey Ballet's WE VS. C to Put the Spotlight on Breast Cancer Survivors

Every Friday, when Shirley Colabella volunteers to serve lunch at a local cancer center cafeteria, her customers don't know one very important fact about her: Colabella is what she considers to be a walking miracle. She was diagnosed with breast cancer that later spread to her lungs and bones and given less than three years to live.

Now, almost 20 years since her initial diagnosis, Colabella continues to fight for her life while giving back to the people and institutions that helped save her life: Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton's cancer care program, the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey Hamilton. Her story is one that will be told through Project WE vs. C, a weekend of stunning performances led by Roxey Ballet and a fundraising event June 3 and 4, timed to coincide with National Cancer Survivors Day.

Community involvement is an important part of RWJ Hamilton's commitment to care, which led the hospital to create Project WE vs. C, working with cancer survivors and the arts to spread the word about cancer in a meaningful and unique way. RWJ Hamilton's Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey Hamilton is a local affiliate of the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey (CINJ) in New Brunswick - the only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center in New Jersey. The mission of WE Vs. C is to help this top-rated cancer center acquire the newest technology and expand cancer services to save more lives through prevention, detection, treatment and ongoing support.

The weekend will be broken up into two parts, each featuring awe-inspiring performances: the "Night of Inspiration" fundraiser on Saturday, June 3, and the presentation of Breast Cancer: Personal Stories of Triumph on Sunday, June 4, National Cancer Survivors Day. Both events will take place in the Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, which will be enhanced by several healing gardens inspired by the program.

The fundraising efforts will contribute to an $8.5 million, two-year project geared exclusively for enhancements to RWJ Hamilton's comprehensive cancer program, including the purchase of the most advanced 3D mammography unit and a state-of-the-art linear accelerator for radiation treatments.

"This offers a major opportunity to contribute to advancements in the care we provide patients and our abilities to educate the public," said Nina Melker, Chairman of the RWJ Hamilton Foundation Board.

Roxey Ballet and their presentation of Breast Cancer: Personal Stories of Triumph will feature the personal stories of 22 patients from RWJ Hamilton, including Colabella's, as well as the YWCA Princeton Breast Cancer Resource Center. Lead choreographer Mark Roxey will utilize his professional dancers as well as several of the survivors in his choreography.

"The arts are healing to different people in different ways and a partnership like this allows us to spread the message of cancer awareness in a captivating and deeply humanistic way," Roxey said. "This is particularly exciting because, in working directly with survivors, we get to tell their story but also allow them to share their experiences directly with their community."

New Jersey ranks among the top five states in the entire nation for the highest cancer rates, among all types and genders, hospital officials say. Progress with improved screenings and identification of vital risk factors, along with access to top cancer treatments and clinical trials, are leading to higher survival rates.

"RWJ Hamilton is leading the charge to unite against cancer and the need for our advanced services is growing. Part of uniting against cancer is working with our community to educate the public about cancer risk reduction, screening and early detection," said Dr. Firas Eladoumikdachi, Program Director of the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey Hamilton. "WE vs. C will build upon the range of cancer care services that we offer. Our number one goal is to further enhance the breakthrough technology and programs needed in our fight against cancer."

For more information and to purchase tickets to WE vs. C, click here.

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton is the first New Jersey Hospital to receive the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. Located in Hamilton Township, NJ, the hospital is part of the RWJBarnabas Health network and is affiliated with Rutgers RWJ Medical School and the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey. RWJ Hamilton serves communities within a five-county area and includes an acute care hospital, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey Hamilton, affiliated physician practices, Lakeview Child Centers and RWJ Fitness & Wellness Center-Hamilton.

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