Uncertainty, frustration, success, cooperation and resources were some of the cancer issues discussed at a special meeting Nov. 21 at St. Catherine Hospital.
The Kansas/Western Missouri Division of the Susan G. Komen Foundation hosted two meetings, one with medical professionals and a public/community forum to discuss a variety of cancer issues and how the foundation can be more involved in Kansas.
About a dozen attendees, including cancer survivors and family members, Promotoras De Salud (Community Health Educators) and cancer staff shared their experiences dealing with cancer.
Erica Terry, division CEO, said the foundation needs to understand the landscape of cancer, what care is available and what the barriers are to getting treatment. Access, care and resources are the three themes for the foundation.
For cancer patients, not knowing what to do can be a big barrier, but the Komen Foundation wants to eliminate those barriers.
Heather Wright-Renick, director of the Breast Cancer Center, said there is a support group that communicates in both English and Spanish. Every new cancer patient receives a postcard in English and Spanish to remind people of their appointments.
When a person is first diagnosed with cancer, knowing where to start can be an issue. People wonder "what do I do," Terry said.
Wright-Renick said people don't think about early detection but everybody needs to talk about it. And there are resources available and they need to be exploited.
Deanna Berry, executive director of Russell Child Development Center, had her own battle with cancer. When her journey started, she wondered what doctor should she see. She did a lot of research on her own and that helped her make good decisions for her treatment.
Other people might not do that kind of research or know what resources were available. They might do what the first person told them to do in their own case. There is so much to do and understand that it can be very challenging to a person doesn't have access to resources.
"It's kind of overwhelming," Berry said.
Without a lot of resources, people can't make good decisions and they hope they are doing the right thing.
Garden City has local cancer resources available. Having local resources is important. Being able to take treatment close to home is a great thing. But some people have trouble believing resources and might not trust local local options, Berry said.
Wright-Renick said trust in resources can be a problem. If one person has a problem and others hear about it, it might raise mistrust. But at the Breast Cancer Center, everyone there wants the patient to have the best possible outcome. They provide the same quality and level of care as other cancer treatment facilities.
"We know we are meeting the standards and guidelines they have to meet across the nation," Wright-Renick said. "And if we can't handle it here, we will send them to other facilities that can."
The center has doctors that can do testing in Garden City and if a patient can't come to the center, they can reach out to the patient.
Each person's needs in their cancer journey will vary and a solution for one might not be the solution for another.
"Everybody's recipe is different," Wright-Renick said.
Retired attendee Jeff Reiner said his daughter went through breast cancer and had to deal with equipment problems and bad weather during her treatment before she came to Garden City facilities.
Having time to take treatment can be a problem. Kelley Jenkins, a sixth-grade teacher, said she can't just tell a class she'll be back in an hour and walk out. If a person has to take off a half day or full day, they have a substitute. If some of these services were available on Saturday, that would be a big help.
"The hours they are open are a barrier for some people," Jenkins said.
Getting rides to appointments can also be a barrier. If the person taking treatment shouldn't drive after the treatment or doesn't have a car, it can be difficult to find someone else to drive or be able to reimburse a driver if necessary.
Being able to have more then one procedure done at a time would be time and money saver. Barry said this is a problem that has to be worked on.
Paying for tests and treatments is another important factor. It's expensive and if a person can't afford insurance, that can be critical in patient care.
"You shouldn't have to make a choice between your job and a biopsy," Wright-Renick said.
Berry said for the uninsured and the underinsured, tests and treatments are expensive and it can get complicated.
But financial options are available. Wright-Renick said there are a lot of options people can take advantage of. They offer free cancer screenings and and a follow up. But people need to act on the followup. If they don't act on the followup, its a waste of time.
Wright-Renick said the Center is concerned about getting people to do the followup and working to make it happen.
A major key to all issues regarding cancer is education. Without education and action, it's a waste.
"We want them (patients) to make a change in their life style. You have to care, you have to do maintenance in order for it to work," Barry said.
Caregivers have to remember to take care of themselves so they can take care of others. The question for some caregivers is "How do I do that?" Barry said.
Numerous other topics were discussed at the meeting. Barry said it was good to have the input and get the data. The Foundation is working on their impact plan and with the data from this meeting, it will help them figure out how to solve the problems and how to make the information available.
The Komen Foundation tour includes Garden City, Wichita, Hays, Salina, Topeka, Goodland, Pittsburg and Kansas City. The tour is a collaboration with the Midwest Cancer Alliance and the Kansas Cancer Partnership. They typically compete with each other but have joined forces for the greater good.