News | October 21, 2009

Marine Earns ASTRO Award for Helping Cancer Community

October 21, 2009 - The American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) has selected Gunnery Sgt. Edward Schrank as its 2009 Survivor Circle Award winner.

Schrank will be presented with his award and $1,000 during the Awards Ceremony on Tuesday, November 3, 2009, during ASTRO's 51st Annual Meeting taking place Nov. 1-5 at McCormick Place West in Chicago.

The Survivor Circle Award recognizes a person living with cancer in the Chicago area who has devoted his or her time to helping others who are living with cancer in their community. Schrank was diagnosed with lacrimal cancer Dec. 20, 2006, while serving as an active duty marine. His doctors at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago attempted to remove the tumor and save his left eye, but were not able to remove all the cancer. Schrank then decided to sacrifice his left eye for a chance at being disease free. He underwent intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and proton therapy at Midwest Proton Radiotherapy Institute in Bloomington, Ind., a year later.

Since his diagnosis, Schrank has founded C.STAR, a support group that not only focuses on cancer patients but provides a special focus on the support needs of a cancer patient's family and friends. He said the inspiration for the organization was his own support team that consisted of his fellow Marines, doctors and loved ones.

"The way that these people stepped up to support me, going far beyond any reasonable expectations, is what I wanted to inspire in other survivor teams," Schrank said. "I watched as my support team struggled to deal with my condition and how we had to utilize mutual support in order to grow stronger as a team."

Schrank also devotes his time to giving back to the hospitals where he received treatment. He visits the Lurie Cancer Center at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and the University of Chicago Medical Center Cancer Center weekly to speak to cancer patients and their support teams. While receiving proton treatments in Bloomington, Ind., he spent his free time speaking to the parents of pediatric patients and providing them with support resources.

"Gunnery Sgt. Schrank is a hero. He has not only served his country as a Marine, but he has served his fellow cancer patients by providing them with support and guidance even though he too was struggling with the disease," Tim R. Williams, M.D., ASTRO president and a radiation oncologist at Boca Raton Community Hospital in Boca Raton, Fla., said. "Cancer can affect anyone any time - even a U.S. Marine in prime health, and Gunnery Sgt. Schrank shows that with the right outlook even something as terrible as a cancer diagnosis can be turned into a positive situation. I am very proud that Gunnery Sgt. Schrank is the Survivor Circle Award winner this year and that we get to share his story at this year's annual meeting."

The Survivor Circle was established in 2003 as a way for ASTRO to give back to the cities that it visits during its Annual Meeting. Each year, ASTRO partners with two local organizations to establish relationships with patient advocacy organizations and radiation oncologists and to raise money to support these groups in their work to help people living with cancer and their loved ones. This year ASTRO has partnered with Gilda's Club Chicago and Halos of Hope.

The ASTRO Annual Meeting is the premier scientific meeting in radiation oncology and attracts more than 11,000 attendees of various disciplines, including oncologists, physicists, biologists, nurses and other healthcare professionals from all over the world. The theme of this year's meeting is "Radiation Oncology in 2020," and the program will focus on the future of the specialty and the goals for advancing radiation therapy over the next decade.

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