The spirited sounds of the USC Trojan Marching Band and the welcoming sight of the physicians and staff of the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center kicked off the 31st annual — and second virtual — Festival of Life.

Hosted by USC Norris on June 5, this event celebrated the strength, resilience and tenacity of cancer survivors. The morning was filled with uplifting words of survivorship and was held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event, led by master of ceremonies W. Martin Kast, PhD, professor of molecular microbiology and immunology, obstetrics and gynecology, and urology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and co-leader of the USC Norris Tumor Microenvironment Program, included remarks by physician speaker Anishka D’Souza, MD, a medical oncologist at USC Norris and assistant professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School. Cancer survivors, including Gregory Olson, a three-year sinus cancer survivor, and Christopher Birmingham, a five-year melanoma cancer survivor, shared their experiences and talked about their hopes for the future. Additional speakers included Krist Azizian, PharmD, MHA, chief pharmacy officer at Keck Medicine of USC, and Joi Torrence-Hill, MHA, chief of hospital operations for USC Norris Cancer Hospital, who both offered opening remarks. Moreover, the Rev. Melissa Wise led an invocation and blessing for the event.

“Those who are survivors for 20 years or more, we salute you,” Kast said. “Those who are survivors for 15 years or more, we applaud you. Those who are survivors for 10 years or more, we praise you. Those who are survivors for five years or more, we rejoice you. For those who are survivors for one year or more, we support you. And those who are just beginning their survivorship, we are here for you.”

A tree of life was available in the USC Norris reception area prior to the Festival of Life for individuals to honor loved ones that have survived, are currently battling, or have lost their lives to cancer. Additionally, an online Festival of Life Gratitude Board was available for patients and caregivers to share notes of appreciation to those who have helped them or a loved one on their cancer journey. Notes of appreciation can be found here:

The 32nd annual USC Norris Festival of Life will take place on June 4, 2022. To view the 2021 31st Festival of Life, click here:

— Hinde Kast