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Cancer groups define services to residents

The Johnson County Community Center was the site of a meeting held this past Tuesday, October 19, 2010, that was open to cancer victims, survivors and members of the community. The purpose of the meeting was to help establish a new support group for cancer patients, as well as informing the community of the services that both the American Cancer Society and our own Johnson County Cancer Support Group already in existence can offer cancer patients, families and friends during an often trying and difficult time. The new support group will be available to assist the cancer patients determine what services are available to help them during their illness, treatment and recovery as well as hopefully create a network of cancer survivors that can lean on each other through some trying times.
Karyn Downey, owner of Mountain Fitness, is the Cancer Task Force Spokesperson for the newly formed local cancer support group and a breast cancer survivor. Addressing an audience of approximately 20 women, Downey explained that initially the purpose of the group was to address breast cancer awareness, but it has evolved into far more. “I would like to see a support group come out of this,” Downey said. She envisions the support group meeting once a month where survivors and victims can spend time together keeping up with changes in treatment and new cancer research, or simply to share a meal with each other. One of the goals of the support group is to identify what the needs within Johnson County are for cancer victims. As a result of the meeting, several people have come forward to offer their services as volunteers.
Karen Heaton is the northeast Tennessee Health Initiatives Representative for the American Cancer Society. Heaton explained that the purpose of the American Cancer Society, approaching its 100th birthday, is to help people stay well and to get well. While the American Cancer Society is well-known for research and development of new drugs to fight cancer, they also recommend that people avoid tobacco products, visit their doctor for cancer screenings, as well as encourage healthy living through proper nutrition, diet and exercise. According to Heaton, the American Cancer Society offers several programs, such as Look Good…Feel Better. This program addresses the many physical changes that cancer patients may experience due to their cancer treatments. Their skin may become drier and they may lose their hair. They offer a make-up program with a licensed cosmetologist. One of the women in the group commented, “They give you a lot of makeup.” Wigs, prosthesis, mastectomy bras, scarves and turbans are available through patient services. Through the Road to Recovery program, patients who need rides to and from their cancer treatments are transported by volunteers who donate their time and the use of their vehicle to make sure the patients get to those critical appointments. “The American Cancer Society wants to help,” said Heaton. Monies raised through such programs as Relay for Life give funds to support critical research and patient services within the American Cancer Society. “Relay is fun and it makes what the American Cancer Society does possible,” said Relay for Life team leader Misste Phillippi.
Karen Mabe is a breast cancer survivor. She has been a volunteer for the American Cancer Society for 18 years. Mabe focuses her time and energy into the Reach to Recovery program, which targets those individuals, both men and women, who have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. Pulling on her experience as a cancer victim and survivor, Mabe reaches out, offering support, comfort and assistance. “You are in a position to help,” Mabe passionately shared. “We are all there for each other. You may say exactly what this woman over here needs to hear.” The Reach to Recovery Program also offers support for caregivers.
Amy Hopson, staff partner for the American Cancer Society, discussed some of the research that has been done over the years with regard to cancer prevention and medication. According to Hopson, the first Pap smear was developed in the 1940’s, leading to a 70 percent decrease in mortality for those diagnosed with this particular form of cancer. The American Cancer Society was instrumental in developing the first use of chemotherapy, and discovered the link between tobacco use and different forms of cancers. They discovered the importance of mammograms and their critical role in diagnosing breast cancer, as well as developing the first test for detecting prostate cancer in men. The American Cancer Society was instrumental in the development of Herceptin and Tamoxifen, two drugs used in the treatment of breast cancer. According to Hopson, there are more cancer survivors because of research, early detection and education. “We’re raising awareness in our community,” said Hopson.
Flo Bellamy and Bobbi Smith were two of the founders of the Johnson County Cancer Support Group many years ago in response to needs within our own community. “We’re so far away from the nearest treatment center,” said Bellamy. According to her, the group has helped pay for caregivers for cancer patients, light bills and heating expenses. They have also helped absorb the cost of pain medications that often are not covered by insurance. “What we do is based on what we have,” Bellamy added.
Housing expenses during treatment can become expensive if the patient has to travel and the Johnson County Support Group helps with those costs. According to Bellamy, approximately two to three new people each month in Johnson County seek the help of the group. They receive help from churches, individuals, the Rotary clubs and the United Way. “By the grace of God, we’re still plugging away,” Bellamy said. “No one has been turned down.” Often Bellamy receives calls from the patient’s oncologist who calls to advise what the needs of the patient are. They also receive referrals from the Johnson County Health Department.
Bellamy stressed that they do not hand out money to patients, but instead pay their electric, rent or water bill directly, helping with immediate needs. “As long as we have any money in that account, that’s what we do,” Bellamy added. “We’re just a little cog in this journey.” Their purpose is to help address the immediate needs of Johnson County residents. “It’s a community effort,” said Bellamy. “We decided to go where our heart is.”
Heaton recognized the importance of what the Johnson County Cancer Support Group offers to its local residents. “It takes all of us, the immediate and the long term,” Hopson added.
Diane Darocha is a natural health consultant. Darocha stressed the importance of eating fruits and vegetables, with 50 percent of these important foods served raw. She also provided an extensive lists of anti-cancer foods. Darocha added if you have difficulty eating during your cancer treatments, an alternative is to puree the food in the blender and drink those much-needed fruits and vegetables to obtain the nutrients. She also stressed the importance of washing the produce before you consume it with ¼ cup of vinegar to one gallon of water wash. Darocha is available to offer her extensive knowledge to cancer patients and their families.
Angie Stout from the Johnson County Health Department spoke to the women at the recent meeting with regard to the mammogram program through the Tennessee Breast and Cervical Screening Program offered through the health department. Clinical breast exam, mammograms and a Pap test and pelvic exam can be scheduled. You may receive these services at no cost if you meet the following requirements and income guidelines: You do not have insurance or your insurance will not reimburse your medical provider for the service; you are between the ages of 50 and 64; you are between the ages of 40 and 49 with a family history of breast cancer or your breast exam is abnormal. You can also receive a Pap test if the specified income guidelines are met; you do not have insurance or your insurance will not reimburse for these screenings; you are between the ages of 40 and 64, or you are between the ages of 18 to 39 and need additional testing based on your Pap test results. The local branch of the health department can provide women with more information, and guidelines for both mammograms screening and Pap tests. Contact the Health Department for financial information guidelines. “I encourage people not to be afraid to make that first step,” Hopson added.
Contact Karyn Downey at 727-2577 for more information about the local support group, or call the American Cancer Society at (423) 975-0635.