Challenge Cancer 2020 is our visionary initiative to cut cancer rates in Maine by 2020. Our goal for a Maine less burdened by cancer requires active participation from people and communities across the state. Our success depends on inviting key stakeholders to the table to share strategy, tactics, and experience.
We recently sat down with one of our stakeholders: Sharon Snell, President of Dean Snell Cancer Foundation (DSCF). Since 2012, DSCF has received consecutive Maine Cancer Foundation grants totaling $52,500 to support transportation for Midcoast Maine cancer patients seeking treatment.
“It was like a tsunami,” said Sharon Snell, President of Dean Snell Cancer Foundation. A resurgence of esophageal cancer in her husband Dean upended the family’s hope for recovery. He was diagnosed in June 2008, and by fall 2009, lost his life to the disease.
The morning after Dean’s passing, a condolence call from an oncologist at New England Cancer Specialists (where Dean received treatment), planted the seed for a way to honor his memory. “I said to [the oncologist], ‘I’d like to start a memorial fund in Dean’s memory.’” The idea ricocheted through Dean and Sharon’s family, including their six adult children, and landed with a resounding yes. The family decided to start an independent foundation and the Dean Snell Cancer Foundation (DSCF) was born fast enough to be included in Dean’s obituary. Days after his passing, $4,000 was raised in memorial donations alone.
Since 2009, DSCF has raised over $400,000 for New England Cancer Specialists [NECS] patients. “NECS [supports] cancer patients up and down the Midcoast area. We’ve helped people from Vinalhaven to Sabattus,” Sharon noted. The organization is entirely volunteer-run, and the funds raised go directly to individual patient needs.”There are as many situations as there are patients,” said Sharon. “Early on we decided we didn’t want anyone to fill out an application or intake form. There are no restrictions and no formulas. We only provide help where needed.”
Did you know that over half of the oncologists in Maine are in Cumberland County?
As one of the most rural states in the country, many cancer patients live far away from treatment providers, and access to care may become a significant barrier to recovery.
For over a decade, Maine Cancer Foundation has provided funding for transportation programs that offer assistance to cancer patients statewide. But we believe there is more we can do.
Here are the big questions we've been asking:
Thank you to Koch Aerial Imaging for the beautiful footage!
Maine Cancer Foundation Board Member Laura Davis Rinck spends her day job as President of Rinck Advertising. In addition to serving on the Foundation’s Board of Directors, Laura has been a voice for those affected by cancer and has shown how to live with hope and success. She won the 2011 Amgen Breakaway from Cancer Survivor award for her involvement in community outreach and for demonstrating a passion for helping others with cancer. The national award is given to a cancer survivor who is involved in community outreach and demonstrates a passion for helping others with cancer.
The month of July is dedicated to cancer survivorship. In our guest blog series, Laura, who was first diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma in 1989, shares unique and impactful perspectives on 28 years of survivorship. Most recently, her journey included over six months of trying to gain access to medical records she was told had been destroyed.
According the National Cancer Institute’s Office of Cancer Survivorship, there are approximately 15.5 million survivors in the United States. Just 17% or 2.6 million have survived over twenty years. And the number drops to about 6% or 960,000 survivors who have lived for thirty years.
I am a twenty-eight year survivor.
The data from NCI supports my own internal clock which, lately, has felt like a bit of ticking time bomb. I suspect that ticking is probably heard by most people who are fifty-something but I only hear it as a survivor. In fact, I have now lived longer as a survivor than not. The advantage of long-term survivorship is a kind of health vigilance that you gain when you’ve been introduced to your own mortality in your early 20’s. Sometimes that clock ticks louder than other times.
A cancer survivor is anyone diagnosed with any type of cancer from the time of their first diagnosis through the balance of the rest of their life, whether that is a few precious months or several decades. My survivorship journey has been defined as living cancer-free for most of that 28-year period, with intermittent secondary cancers including thyroid cancer and multiple basal cell carcinomas. I’ve also had health issues related to radiation scars like pulmonary fibrosis, colon strictures and angiomyolipomas which are benign tumors of the kidneys. There have been plenty of suppressed immune issues over the years including pneumonia and a case of meningitis.
My story is quite typical of a long-term Hodgkin lymphoma survivor. Many of my long-term effects have been the result of receiving a lifetime quota of 4800 rads of radiation treatment. While I have had my ups and downs, in 2011, I took a much more active role in the management of my survivorship when I stumbled upon a medical article that had been published in the American Journal of Medicine entitled, “Care of the Adult Hodgkin Lymphoma Survivor”. I distinctly remember feeling alarmed after reading the abstract: “Hodgkin lymphoma survivors are at risk of developing secondary malignancies, cardiovascular disease, pulmonary disease, thyroid disease, infertility, premature menopause, chronic fatigue, and psychosocial issues. These conditions usually have a long latency and therefore present years or decades after Hodgkin lymphoma treatment, when the patient’s care is being managed by a primary care provider.” (Read the article in full).