Hundreds Visit For Day Of Rest, Relaxation, Rejuvenation

June 3, 2015
By: Karen E. Butler, Director of Communications, DCI

Hundreds of guests turned out for this year’s Spa Day, a day in which Duke Cancer patients are invited to sit back, relax and prepare for the pamper. The annual event, hosted and organized by the Duke Cancer Patient Support Program (DCPSP), featured stylists, cosmetologists from Belk, massage therapists, henna tattoo artists, a poet and more.

Alex Giffen, girlfriend Kelsey Reilly and medical family therapist Ben Weast, LPC, toast the day with a freshly made banana smoothie. Giffen was diagnosed in February with adenoid cystic carcinoma.Alex Giffen, 29, Raleigh, attended with his girlfriend, Kelsey Reilly, and DCPSP medical family therapist Ben Weast, LPC. Giffen was diagnosed in February with adenoid cystic carcinoma of the lacrimal gland, a rare tumor found in glands that secrete tears.

“The family therapists with the Duke Cancer Patient Support Program, in particular Ben, have been very helpful to us as a couple,” said Giffen, whose treatment necessitated the removal of his right eye. “Ben has helped me to acknowledge the difficulties—both the physical and the emotional—associated with my cancer, figure out my needs and communicate better with Kelsey and my family and friends. Ben has also helped Kelsey understand my many challenges so she can be the best caregiver possible.”

The Duke Cancer Patient Support Program hosted its first spa event in 2008. Since that time the event has consistently grown, attracting bigger crowds and local media outlets from throughout the Triangle.

Liz Marchese, Durham, takes time to enjoy a relaxing massage from massage therapist Donna DeVanney. Marchese is battling stage 4 lung cancer.“This year’s Spa Day has been a huge success,” said Doreen Matters, who with Kristy Everett, Recreation Therapy, and volunteer Sara Vega organized the event. “We look forward to providing our patients with a day in which they can rest, relax and indulge in some expert pampering.”

Diagnosed in 2013 with stage 4 lung cancer, Liz Marchese, 56, of Durham, spoke to the reality of cancer as she reveled in a soothing massage.

“I’m ready,” she remarked with a smile. “Since being diagnosed with cancer, my life has gotten better. I don’t worry about anything, anymore. I want the time I have left to be the best it can be. Since my diagnosis, the quality of my life has improved; I do what I want—that includes resting and relaxing whenever I like. Just like today.”

To view event photos taken by Shawn Rocco, Duke Medicine Marketing, visit the DCI’s Facebook page. For more information on the Duke Cancer Patient Support Program, visit More on the 2015 DCPSP Spa Day can be found at Duke Today. To watch news coverage, visit

Photo Collage:  

1. Grace Tisdale, an administrative assistant in Hematology, gets a henna tattoo while at Spa Day. Tisdale was first treated for breast cancer 20 years ago. In 2012 her cancer returned. Tisdale, who has worked for Duke for more than 22 years, underwent a second surgery and recently finished radiation.

2. Cecilia Williams, 62, of Durham, gets a makeover by Bobby Brown cosmetologist Denise Rankin, of Belk. Williams was diagnosed 13 years ago with stage 4 breast cancer.

3. Katja Hill, a literary arts coordinator at Duke, introduces her art project to Amy Steeves, 28, of Apex; Steeves’ sister Alex Landau, 20; and her mother Grace Landau, of Raleigh. Steeves, a pharmacist and the mother of a 20-month-old, finished treatment for lymphoma in December.

4. Lexi Schimelfenig, 20, Raleigh, gets a cuddle from Pets at Duke therapy dog, Abby. Schimelfenig’s mother, Nancy, 48, was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and has just started radiation.

5. Duke Cancer Institute deputy director Steve Patierno, PhD, speaks with WTVD’s Stephanie Lopez. The ABC affiliate aired coverage of Spa Day on its evening news broadcasts.

6. Poetry Fox, Arts and Health at Duke, gets busy typing out his next poem based on the word “presumptuous.” “Be more presumptuous,” it begins. “Starting now,” the poem concludes. Poetry Fox is made possible through the support of the J. Scott Byrd Endowment Fund. For more information visit Arts and Health.