Women's Health Forum slated to promote cancer awareness

Doctor to speak on using holistic medicine to prevent cancer

Posted: Thursday, October 15, 2009

For Cancer Connection treasurer Ruth Johnson, cancer has always kept her busy - and this weekend is no different.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

Johnson is helping organize Cancer Connection's free Women's Health Forum on Saturday, which starts at 11 a.m., includes lunch and features keynote speakers Dr. Astrid Pujari, presenting "Using Holistic Medicine to Prevent Cancer," and Merritt Andruss, presenting "The Aging Process."

"I love seeing Centennial Hall full of women learning how to take better care of themselves," Johnson said of the annual event.

Even the lunch menu, which was designed by Bartlett Regional Hospital dietitian Linda Wild and Silverbow Catering, fits the health theme. More than 20 local health care providers will have exhibits to visit in the lobby before the lunch starts.

"Come!" Johnson said. "Dr. Pujari was recommended by (Seattle's) Virginia Mason Hospital. ... Pujari is not one of their staff physicians, but they recommended her because they thought she was the best speaker for our topic."

Pujari was selected by a survey of Washington physicians as one of Seattle's best doctors for three years.

Andruss is a nurse practitioner who recently retired from the Juneau Pioneers' Home.

Johnson herself, who is also the chief financial officer at the Juneau long-term care facility Wildflower Court, has been on the Cancer Connection board for about a decade. Johnson got involved through the organization's founder, Mike Miller, who was her son's swim coach at the time. Miller was diagnosed with inoperable terminal prostate cancer at age 42. He's alive, but had to move to Oregon to be near his oncologist.

Because Johnson served on the swim team board, Miller asked her to help when he started Cancer Connection.

"I have been touched by how many people are affected by cancer in our community and moved by the level of support we receive from businesses and individuals in our community to fund our programs," Johnson said.

According to the National Centers for Disease Control, approximately 1,890 Alaskans will be affected by cancer this year and about 800 will die of cancer this year.

The board is an all-volunteer organization whose members are cancer survivors or have been affected by cancer in a meaningful way, Johnson said.

Johnson herself is not a cancer survivor, though her mother had multiple cancer diagnoses, starting with uterine cancer when Johnson was in middle school, breast cancer when Johnson was 18, and colon cancer five years after that. Johnson's mother is now 84 and recently survived esophageal cancer.

"She says at the rate they are whittling away parts, I may have to bury her in a thimble box, but she plans on dying of old age!" Johnson said.

Pat Yearty, another Cancer Connection board member, said four types of cancer account for half of all cancer deaths: lung cancer, breast cancer for women or prostate cancer for men, and colon cancer.

"We have means of detecting or preventing those (four) early - stopping it or finding it when it's still curable," Yearty said.

Johnson hopes women attending Saturday's forum will leave with new information "that will educate and inspire us to make healthy, informed choices," she said.

• Contact Neighbors editor Kim Andree at kim.andree@juneauempire.com or 523-2272.

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