West Jefferson Medical Center in Marrero recently unveiled the “Tree of Life,” honoring donors to its Cancer Center.

With great anticipation, donors filled the hallway before the unveiling to hear Dr. Nagarajan Chandrasekaran, also known as “Dr. Sekar,” reflect on his work at the center.

Sekar, who has been at the center since 1993, thanked the donors for their generosity. The other oncologists on staff are Dr. Robert Kessler and Dr. Vijay Patel.

“Cancer can be difficult for anybody, especially, seeing someone with the cancer. The physical, economical, emotional, psychological and financial impact is terrible,” Sekar said. “But like the ant, even though it goes through difficulties, it uses the leaf to cross over.”

Donors are like those leaves, helping people move forward, he said.

Hospital Foundation President Karen Ward and Jefferson Parish President John Young unveiled the impressive piece of artwork, with more than 100 guests present.

The tree, assembled by WJMC engineer Will Danos, hangs in the entry hallway of the infusion center. It is more than 10 feet wide and 10 feet tall. It is made up of a stained-wood wall plaque with a life-size brass tree. The tree’s trunk is made of cast bronze with branches similarly cast in bronze. The branches hold gold, silver and bronze leaves engraved with donors’ names. Each leaf represents various levels of donation.

The large brass stones under the “Tree of Life” and brass acorns represent major donors.

Contributions of $250 or more to the Cancer Center at WJMC will be recognized on the “Tree of Life.”

Vanessa Baton, director of the Oncology Service Line, said, “The donors make everything we provide for our patients at the Cancer Center possible.”

“The Tree of Life speaks volumes to the dedication of quality, compassionate and affordable cancer care for our patient population.”

To learn more about the “Tree of Life” or to make a contribution, contact the Hospital Foundation office at (504) 349-2051.

Road to cancer recovery

The Cancer Center also is participating in The American Cancer Society’s “Help a Neighbor Get on the Road to Recovery” program.

There are many West Bank patients whose greatest challenge isn’t treatment but lack of transportation to their appointment.

Paula Shamsie, senior director of community engagement for the Mid-South Division of the American Cancer Society, said, “There are approximately 10 to 15 drivers from West Bank. However, more are needed.”

Road to Recovery is an American Cancer Society program designed to ensure that cancer patients have transportation to and from medical facilities for treatments.

Trained volunteer drivers provide patients with a ride in order to keep them on a regular treatment schedule.

The Road to Recovery program is important because when cancer patients don’t have transportation, it can leave patients with few options for completing their treatment schedules.

Many of these patients need daily or weekly treatment over a period of months and simply have no way to get there.

Although family and friends may be able to help, many times they’re not available.

If you are a cancer patient or know of a cancer patient who is having difficulty with transportation to and from needed treatments, contact the American Cancer Society at (800) 227-2345.

To become a Road to Recovery driver, you must have a valid driver’s license, access to a vehicle and a personal automobile insurance.

Gardenia Youth Gardening Program

The Gardenia Youth Gardening Program, a monthly gardening program for teens and tweens, will be held at the Gretna Library, 102 Willow, Gretna.

The group will meet at 4 p.m. on June 11, July 9, Aug. 13, Sept. 10 and Oct. 8.

Participation in the group is free and open to the public.

The purpose of the new club is to encourage youth development and life skills training through gardening and learning about the food system. Group members will learn about food, gardening, entrepreneurship and health through hands-on experiences.

For more information, contact Chris Smith, manager of adult programming for the library, at (504) 889-8143 or wcsmith @jefferson.lib.la.us.

Yetoria Lumpkin DeShazier writes about the people and events in Algiers and the West Bank. Contact her at ydeshazier@gmail.com or call (504) 367-0905.