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A cancer diagnosis is a life-changing moment and the start of a difficult journey. On Sunday, May 21, thousands of survivors and supporters came together on the streets of Lowell to make that journey a little easier.

On a beautiful spring day, the 24th annual TeamWalk for CancerCare raised more than $661,000, money that will go directly to patients in the Merrimack Valley.

“TeamWalk exemplifies our mission and culture at Lowell General Hospital because it’s about putting our patients first and surrounding them with care,” Lowell General CEO Jody White said. “This community never fails step up for our patients, and it was incredible to see the streams of walkers crossing the start line. When Lowell comes together, great things happen.”

Since it started in 2000, Lowell General has raised more than $15 million and helped more than 36,000 patients. Every dollar raised goes to help patients at the Cancer Center at Lowell General Hospital and throughout the Merrimack Valley with things insurance doesn’t cover – an overdue bill, a prescription co-pay, a wig, transportation to and from treatment, or integrative therapies to aid recovery.

This year’s TeamWalk Co-chairs are Drs. Atul and Ajita Bhat of Andover. Dr. Atul Bhat is a Lowell General affiliated physician and recent a cancer survivor who chose to get his care at the hospital’s Cancer Center, which turns 25 this year.

“I chose Lowell General not because I would get special treatment as a physician, but because I know that every patient here receives the same level as care as the Boston cancer centers,” Dr. Atul Bhat said.

This year’s first-ever presenting sponsor is Shields Health. Elite sponsors are Cafua Management/Dunkin, Commonwealth Radiology and Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union.