Chevas Samuels and Auburn Perry

“This is an awesome idea!” We heard repeatedly as ASU students, fans and faculty huddled around the ACE display to remember family, friends and friends-of-friends impacted by cancer, by writing their names on paper tags and placing them on the memorial tree on our stand.

Those names will soon be transcribed to permanent metal tags and placed in the Cancer Memorial Cactus Garden near ASU’s Biodesign Building C.

The small memorial tree quickly filled up with tags as we heard stories from cancer survivors and loved ones of those taken by Cancer.

In fact, within two hours, we’d run out of paper tags and began to record names on a sheet of paper. It was important to get every name.

It was bittersweet at times.

Some filled out several tags, others called family members asking for the proper spelling of loved ones names and many returned to the tree later during the day to add yet more names.

It was poignant to see the branches filling up.  It says a lot about cancer our relationship to cancer: no one is safe from the disease. Yet commemorating loved ones in this way on a beautiful, sunny day in Tempe gave people comfort.

My own fight with Cancer struck a chord with many, creating a kinship of sorts with other survivors.  And the detailed stories they shared had me believing that some of them were still dealing with fresh pain, emotions and loss. 

This was the first year for the Memorial Tree, but I’d bet good money it won’t be the last. I’ll be there next year and the year after and so on.

ACE’s Cristina Baciu asked me how we could make next year better.

“More tags,” I answered.

Chevas Samuels, ACE Patient Advocate

Read more about the Cactus Garden and ACE at