Newswise — ARLINGTON, Va., July 17, 2017 -- The winner of the American Society for Radiation Oncology’s (ASTRO’s) 2017 Survivor Circle Award is many things—a former pro baseball player, a retired UPS driver, a family man and, yes, a current cancer patient.
ASTRO has selected Rocky Craig, a resident of La Mesa, California, to receive the 2017 ASTRO Survivor Circle Award, an annual recognition of a cancer survivor who has dedicated time and energy in service and support of their local community. Craig will be presented with this award, along with $1,000, during an awards ceremony at the 59th Annual Meeting, taking place September 24–27 at the San Diego Convention Center.
Every year, ASTRO selects and recognizes a cancer survivor in the community in which it holds its Annual Meeting. This year’s awardee, Rocky Craig, is battling lung cancer but still volunteers his time as a shuttle bus driver for Sharp Grossmont Hospital.
“ASTRO is privileged to present this meaningful award to such an inspiring man. Rocky Craig has faced a very challenging cancer diagnosis, despite having always led a healthy life. Nevertheless, he has found the courage to actively share his positivity with other patients battling cancer,” said ASTRO President-elect Paul M. Harari, MD, FASTRO. “Despite his ongoing treatment for lung cancer, he continues to volunteer at the hospital where he is being treated—and his story and encouragement help spread hope to other cancer patients.”
Craig began volunteering at Sharp Grossmont three years ago—even before his December 2016 diagnosis of Stage III lung cancer. He was encouraged to volunteer after his pastor asked the congregation, “What gifts do you have that you’re not using that can help others?”
Being retired, Craig said the first thing that popped into his head was that he has the gift of time. But his résumé also helped guide his search for a volunteer position. Following a seven-year stint in professional baseball, playing for ball clubs like the Kansas City Royals, Houston Astros and even his home team, the San Diego Padres, Craig spent 28 years as a UPS delivery truck driver. Craig now puts those driving skills to good use in his role at Sharp Grossmont.
“I knew right away that driving would be the perfect way to give back while having a chance to connect with people around me,” Craig said. Even now, Craig keeps his weekly Wednesday shift as a Sharp Grossmont “Blue Angel,” a volunteer stationed at the hospital’s main entrance to greet and drive patients and visitors around the campus.
“As soon as I could get back to volunteering after my treatment, I did it,” said Craig. “It takes away any concern about what’s going on with me. I have a wonderful day when I’m working out there, every day.” Craig said he sometimes will pick up an extra shift or two and work two to three days a week. His favorite part is being around other people, learning their stories and helping them with their own struggles. “I don’t look sick—it surprises other people when they learn I have cancer,” said Craig. “And I think it encourages them as they are going through their own problems.”
Kristi Vetrand, the cancer patient navigator at Sharp Grossmont’s David and Donna Long Center for Cancer Treatment, agrees. “Rocky always has a smile and positive attitude. He provides support, comfort and a listening ear to those who need it. Even after he completed treatment, he came back to visit with patients he knew were still in treatment, to check on them and provide hope and encouragement.”
Craig underwent a concurrent treatment of radiation and chemotherapy at the Long Center. He completed his first round of treatment in March 2017, and his doctors will re-evaluate in August to determine his future treatment options.
Even in receiving the award, Craig defers the honor, pointing to the staff at the hospital where he was treated. “It’s very humbling to receive this recognition,” Craig said. “When you’re a volunteer, you’re not looking for recognition. You do it because you want to help people. But I think the people who work at Sharp Grossmont need this award. Every day, they make you feel comfortable. It takes special people to do that.”
ASTRO is the premier radiation oncology society in the world, with more than 10,000 members who are physicians, nurses, biologists, physicists, radiation therapists, dosimetrists and other health care professionals who specialize in treating patients with radiation therapies. As the leading organization in radiation oncology, the Society is dedicated to improving patient care through professional education and training, support for clinical practice and health policy standards, advancement of science and research, and advocacy. ASTRO publishes three medical journals, International Journal of Radiation Oncology • Biology • Physics (www.redjournal.org), Practical Radiation Oncology (www.practicalradonc.org) and Advances in Radiation Oncology (www.advancesradonc.org); developed and maintains an extensive patient website, RT Answers (www.rtanswers.org); and created the Radiation Oncology Institute (www.roinstitute.org), a nonprofit foundation to support research and education efforts around the world that enhance and confirm the critical role of radiation therapy in improving cancer treatment. To learn more about ASTRO, visit www.astro.org.