The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) is pleased to announce the successful completion of the second annual Southeast Men’s Prostate and Testicular Cancer Survivor Retreat on June 1-3 in Wrangell. We would like to extend our sincere thanks and appreciation to our sponsors: Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC), The Healthy Wrangell Program, Alaska Prostate Cancer Coalition (APCC), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Sealaska Corporation, Central Council of Tlingít and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (CCTHITA), State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Comprehensive Cancer Control Program, Wal-Mart Foundation, SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC).
The retreat included cancer survivors from all over Southeast Alaska, as well as health professionals Alaska Native Medical Center (ANMC) lead oncologist Dr. Greg Marino, recently retired ANMC urologist Dr. Michael Singsaas, SEARHC Community Health Care Services Medical Director Dr. Russ Bowman, SEARHC Gunaanastí Bill Brady Healing Center Chemical dependency Counselor II Robert Hoffmann, SEARHC Community Health Care Services Health Systems Specialist Richelle Whitson, and SEARHC Health Systems Analyst Connie Kanen.
The retreat offered the men a chance to share stories, learn about post-treatment care, improve understanding of treatment options, engage in culturally meaningful activities designed to support and encourage the healing process, and connect with other cancer survivors, thus creating support networks. The retreat was all-inclusive and included round-trip transportation to Hardings Old Sourdough Lodge in Wrangell, meals, lodging, and activities. The agenda included the hike and harvest program located in Wrangell, talking/healing circles, evening fireside discussions, and a guided fishing trip or a jet boat excursion on the Stikine River.
Only three days after the retreat ended, SEARHC already received e-mails and phone calls from the men and their family members expressing their gratitude for the retreat. In general, Alaska Native men have a higher incidence rate of prostate and testicular cancers than non-Native men. While Alaska Native men generally have low rates of prostate cancer, Southeast Alaska Native men have the highest rate within this group. Unfortunately, many male cancer survivors feel that there is a lack of support.
Because many prostate and testicular cancer survivors endure life-long side effects, we believe it’s important to provide an opportunity for men to obtain the support they need. From the feedback we received, providing this support has a positive ripple effect that flows through the family of those affected and the communities where the men reside. The men were able to ask questions and obtain answers through discussions with cancer experts and fellow survivors.
Again, we give a sincere thanks to our sponsors and extend a thank you to the community of Wrangell.
Richelle Whitson, SEARHC Health Systems Specialist, Community Health Care Services