This week I met with Beth and Valerie at the American Cancer Society (ACS) office. National headquarters for ACS are in Atlanta, GA, but I am lucky to have an office just one mile from my home in downtown Batavia, Illinois. The purpose of my visit was two-fold; first, to share Breast Cancer MyStory with them and, second, to learn more about services provided by ACS to breast cancer patients, survivors and caregivers to share with you. There is so much to fit in this blog, I’ve organized what ACS offers into in four service areas: 1) Prevention, 2) Newly Diagnosed, 3) Survivor Support, and 4) Ways to Give Back. Let me also mention that, like any organization, ACS is constantly changing and updating their services. As a disclaimer, the services I’ve written about are ones available as of my post in 2012 and may be expanded or contracted in the future.
ACS staff and volunteers are available to provide targeted education and programming to groups of all ages. This includes health fairs, schools and community events with the goal of reaching varied populations and are currently extending their outreach to underserved communities. Topics include: early detection, nutrition, physical activity, and cancer site-specific information. They also offer worksite wellness services from lifestyle changes to cancer prevention. ACS also partners with area agencies to leverage their reach and increase audiences. More information at http://www.cancer.org.
2. Newly diagnosed.
Patient Navigation Services – 1-800-227-2345 http://www.illinoiscancerhelp.org
ACS can answer your questions about cancer; information is your weapon and help is available 24/7. Get grounded on your path ahead by using patient navigation services.
Visit a Local ACS Office – If you have an ACS office nearby, simply walk in and ask for assistance. This is what I did a few days after I was diagnosed and the smiling folks gave me a binder to keep all my documents in and loaded me up with booklets and resources so I could read at my own pace. I was offered a Reach to Recovery volunteer, but never took them up on it. In hindsight, I wish I had connected with a volunteer who had walked in my steps ahead of me, but at the time that was not my comfort level. I encourage you to call and to let others help you with through their story.
Reach to Recovery – A free peer to peer support program in which newly diagnosed breast cancer patients are paired with trained volunteer breast cancer survivors who have been through a similar diagnosis.
3. Survivor & Caregiver Support.
Cancer Survivors Network – a free online community where cancer survivors and caregivers can interact and share their stories through chat rooms and discussion boards.
Look Good, Feel Better – A free program that teaches beauty techniques to female cancer patients in active treatment to help them combat the appearance-related side effects of cancer treatment. Wigs (synthetic and human hair), hats, scarves and head wraps are also available at no cost. Wigs are personally fitted and styled by a professional volunteer by appointment.
Road to Recovery – A free service offered in which volunteer drivers from throughout the community provide cancer patients with transportation to and from their treatment and medical appointments. 1-800-227-2345.
4. Ways to Give Back.
Family, friends and survivors often feel the need to give back during or after cancer treatment. ACS hosts local events to give those affected by cancer a way to express their love, gratitude and to get involved. For some, writing a check is empowerment, for others there is a burning desire to get involved, so here are some ways to consider.
Making Strides Against Breast Cancer – walk, get a team together, sponsor a walker or volunteer at this event specifically focused on breast cancer. Check ACS for a location near you. I walked in the 2012 event at the Fox Valley Outlet Mall and was proud to participate in the event on behalf of sponsor Kluber Architects + Engineers.
Road to Recovery – volunteer to drive cancer patients to their treatments. 1-800-227-2345.
Reach to Recovery – volunteer to be paired with a newly diagnosed breast cancer patient.
Walk & Roll – (Illinois event started in 1971) – a unique fundraising event where participants walk, bike or skate to fight all forms of cancer.
The work of the American Cancer Society is vitally important and provides needed services for cancer patients and their caregivers. Knowing more about ACS services, I am advocating for you to pick up the phone, check their website or walk in to discover the important work they do everyday. Thank you and kudos to Beth and Valerie for being my guides. Thank you to the American Cancer Society. You are making a difference in the lives of so many of us affected by cancer.