Talent show illustrates people can embrace life — and sing, dance and juggle! — after cancer

November 1, 2023

The performers at a talent show in Baltimore left no doubt: It certainly is possible to fully live life after a cancer diagnosis and treatment regimen.

People who are thriving after their treatment took to the stage at the show in September to sing, dance, juggle, read poetry and play instruments.

Dr. Armando Sardi, medical director of the Institute for Cancer Care at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, performs magic tricks to kick off the September show. His treatment protocols for advanced cancer have enabled many patients to survive many years, despite their initial poor prognoses.


They also shared their stories of being diagnosed with abdominal, colon, appendix, ovarian, uterine or other cancers, receiving treatment and going on to embrace life. Several had been told by clinicians upon diagnosis that they only had a short time to live, but treatment proved those prognoses wrong.

Patients have come to Mercy for this treatment from over 600 cities and 12 countries.

Most of the performers had undergone cytoreductive surgery and hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy at Baltimore's Mercy Medical Center from Dr. Armando Sardi, a surgical oncologist and medical director of the hospital's Institute for Cancer Care. Some performers flew in from far-flung places to show off their skills and celebrate their recovery. Some performers were cancer center staff.

At the outset of the show, Sardi said, "nothing makes me happier than to see people who had no chance, enjoying life." He even performed an opening magic act. Then, the cancer survivors made their own appearances to demonstrate their talents.

Kyra Isaacs, a physician assistant with the department of surgical oncology at Mercy Medical Center, and her dance partner Nii Okine wow the crowd with a swing routine during the talent show for survivors of cancer and their clinicians.


Cancer survivor Bess Livioco, 67, performed two songs with her son and grandson. The trio wore T-shirts that read "In this family, we fight together."

Paul Kalusa, 29, and his wife performed an African praise melody, with their 2-year-old daughter, Isabella, in tow. Kalusa told the audience he was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer just two months after Isabella's birth. He was told at the time to just go home and spend time with his family as he awaited his death. Instead, he and his wife — who is a nurse — researched options until they found Sardi.

Paul Kalusa, 29, a survivor of colon cancer, performed an African praise medley with his family — he played bass guitar. Here, Kalusa speaks at the talent show as his wife, Irene Nabutono, looks on, with the couple's daughter, Isabella, on her back.

Kalusa told the audience at the talent show that when he awoke from his cancer surgery, his wife relayed Sardi's prognosis to him: "You are cancer free. You are going to live."

"Here I am today," Kalusa said.

The talent show was the first such event for this group. It was presented by Partners for Cancer Care and Prevention and held at the McManus Theater at Loyola University Maryland. The Partners for Cancer Care and Prevention nonprofit provides patients with resources.

The hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy Sardi performs is an aggressive treatment for a variety of intra-abdominal malignancies in advanced stages, according to a press release. The procedure involves removing visible tumors from the abdominal area and adding a heated chemotherapy solution to the abdominal cavity to destroy invisible tumor cells that may remain.



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