Program providing peer support for cancer patients

Posted: Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Dealing with cancer is tough enough without having to deal with cancer while alone.

Ruth Johnson of the Southeast Alaska Cancer and Wellness Foundation said her organization is working to provide support with people to talk to, reliable information and even some money to offset a part of the cost of out-of-town treatment.

The foundation "tries to be a safety net for people diagnosed with cancer," she said.

At tonight's meeting of the foundation board, two visitors from Seattle are slated to discuss some of the help their agencies can offer cancer patients in Juneau.

"The more you learn about cancer, the more you learn it's not a death sentence," said Carrie Nass, partnership program coordinator for Alaska for the National Cancer Institute's Cancer Information Service.

Lauren Slovic, patient services manager for the Washington-Alaska Chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, noted the overall cure rate of children with acute lymphocytic leukemia, the most common form of leukemia, is around 80 percent. In 1960, the survival rate was about 4 percent, she noted.

But another blood cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, is the fifth-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, Slovic added.

"You don't hear about blood cancer so much in the media," she said.

One program offered by her organization, First Connection, is a peer-to-peer support program for patients, family members and survivors that allows people diagnosed with a blood cancer to talk to others about their experiences in coping with the disease.

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society also offers $500 a year to patients with significant financial need to help defray treatment costs, Slovic added.

Johnson said the money is in addition to $300 the local foundation makes available to cancer patients in need.

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