‘Cancer-versary’ Is the Latest in Medical Sharing Parties

Bethany Kandel pictured center in brown. (Courtesy Bethany Kandel)(NEW YORK) — Last October, New York City journalist Bethany Kandel passed an emotional milestone: She celebrated the fifth anniversary of being cancer-free after numerous surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation for breast cancer.

“I’ve been doing great and I didn’t want to have a ‘party’ for fear of jinxing it, but wanted to somehow mark the occasion as being special and as a way of paying back for all that was done for me,” said Kandel, 55.

She called her celebration a “gratitude gathering” and invited her mother and 15 of her best girlfriends for tea and dessert.  The name seemed “less of a jinx,” she said.

She served “boobie” cupcakes — white frosting with pink blobs — pink ribbon chocolates on a stick and champagne.

“In lieu of gifts, I asked each woman to bring a bag of wrapped hard candies and I delivered a huge basket of them all to my chemo ward where the nurses give them to the patients who get parched while in chemo,” she said.  “In this way, my gratitude over my clean bill of health and five-year milestone turned into a way for my friends to give back as well.”

Cancer-versaries are the latest in medical sharing trends.  There are others, too.

Women now hold festive mammogram events — called “mamm” parties — with refreshments and maybe even a spa treatment thrown in to make the diagnostic test less intimidating.

Mandy Kiser was recently invited to such a soiree by her employer, a bank in Wichita, Kan.  For all its female employees, the bank provided chocolate fondue, paraffin wax hand treatments, back rubs and beauty consultations.

“What a great way to take the preconceived notion that a mammogram is a horrible, uncomfortable experience and make it into lovely evening,” she told ABC News last year.  “It turned into a nice, relaxing time hanging out with friends and co-workers.”

From Florida to California, certified ultrasound technicians are offering 4-D videos of the baby growing in the womb at sonogram parties sponsored by family and friends.  Surprise baby showers and gender-reveal events can be held at home or even at a country club.

Viviana Aguilera, a 25-year-old teacher from Cape Coral, Fla., held her own sonogram party in her home so close friends and family could watch a moving image of her 29-week-old fetus moving in her womb.  Long-distance family joined in by streaming the ultrasound on Facetime.

“It was awesome,” said Aguilera recently.  “The house was packed.”

Dr. Allen Gabriel, a reconstructive surgeon from Vancouver, Wash., said celebrations are important psychologically for women, especially cancer-free parties.

“What it does is bring friends and family together so they can acknowledge what has happened and what they have gone through,” he said.  “It brings them closer together and gives them an opportunity to reflect.  Like a funeral, one year, two years, 40 years out after a person has died, some people go to church to reflect on the day.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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