SIKESTON - Breast cancer not only affects the person diagnosed with the disease but it creates a feeling of helplessness for friends and family.
Many Sikeston residents have chosen to take action by volunteering their time to the American Cancer Society. They have discovered there are many ways they can use their time and talents.
Some ACS volunteers hit the highways through the Road to Recovery program.
As Robin Stoner noted, one cancer patient requiring radiation therapy could need anywhere from 20 to 30 trips to treatment in six weeks. "A patient receiving chemotherapy might report for treatment weekly for up to a year," said Stoner, community specialist/health initiatives with the American Cancer Society, Heartland Division. "In many cases, a patient is driven to hospitals or clinics by friends or relatives, but even these patients must occasionally seek alternative transportation. That's where Road to Recovery comes in."
Literally hundreds of men, women and young people do their part by participating in the annual Relay For Life where they form groups and walk for a cure. Sikeston's Relay for Life is conducted in May and New Madrid's is in August.
"The dollars they raise at Relay for Life make an enormous impact on the life of a patient by funding research to find a cure and improve treatment options," Stoner said.
Then there are those like Blye Galemore and Scott Chartrau of Blye and Co. who put their talents to use in the Look Good, Feel Better program. Designed in collaboration with the National Cosmetology Association and the Cosmetics Toiletry and Fragrance Association, Look Good, Feel Better is conducted in a group setting to demonstrate ways to change appearances with cosmetics, skin care products, wigs and more.
Galemore also recently became certified as a state trainer and qualified to train other cosmetologists to be facilitators in the program.
"A Look Good, Feel Better volunteer offers an opportunity for the cancer patient to regain a sense of self-confidence and control over her life while undergoing cancer treatment by helping her learn to cope with the appearance-related side effects," noted Stoner. "That is invaluable to a cancer patient."
The way Mary Carolyn Adams volunteers with the American Cancer Society is by leading a Breast Cancer Survivors Group on the first Tuesday of every month in the basement classroom of Missouri Delta Medical Center.
"It's an educational program," explained Adams, an X-ray technologist in the mammography unit of the hospital. "We have different speakers who come in and discuss various topics. It's for women who have recently been diagnosed and for survivors. The women seem to do well in a group setting with other women who are going through what they are and with women who have already gone through it."
Those who become Tell-A-Friend volunteers encourage women who have not been receiving regular screening to obtain annual mammograms. The program is a targeted, peer-to-peer program to motivate older women, African Americans, Hispanic women and other minorities to get a mammogram.
Reach to Recovery is a program Teresa Bye believes so strongly in that she makes herself available at all hours of the day or night to breast cancer patients who just need to talk.
"This is something that's near and dear to my heart," said Bye, who has been a breast cancer survivor for eight years.
Through Reach to Recovery, an ACS volunteer who has had breast cancer brings information regarding prostheses, wigs, exercises, community resources and breast cancer and offers the benefit of talking with a breast cancer survivor.
"You're there for support, you tell her what she can expect and what you went through. The goal is for that person to know there is life after and that I can relate, I can help support her and that I'm as close as a phone call. No matter what time you need to call me, I'm here, you're not alone," said Bye.
Brenda Freed, health educator at the Scott County Health Department, educates junior and senior high school girls on the importance of breast self exams. She describes it as something that could one day be a life-saving routine.
"I think learning about the services the American Cancer Society provides gives them a sense of security of where they can go because the word cancer just kind of freaks you out," she said. "This class is helping them learn how to take care of themselves and how important it is to know what's normal and abnormal about their bodies, such as a lump in their breast. The more aware they are and the more education they have about breast cancer and self exams, the better off they are. It's also important for teen-agers to know if there is something, it doesn't always mean cancer."
Freed also sang high praises for the Scott County Breast Cancer Awareness Committee of which she is a member. Members do various promotional activities in an attempt to get the word out about breast cancer and detecting the disease.
"This week we did the luncheon which was a huge success," she said. "We've put notices on water bills, had speakers at churches and even had a flag flown over the state capital for breast cancer awareness."
Anyone interested in volunteering in one of the many services the American Cancer offers is encouraged to call 471-1823.
$398,604 in research grants are delivered to Heartland institutions
8,917 youths are involved with activities to discourage tobacco use
5,951 patients and families benefit from nutritional supplements, wigs, free guest housing, mileage reimbursement and other direct services
4,052 adults are personally reached with lifesaving educational messages
3,054 calls are made to the ACS 24-hour hotline, 1-800-ACS-2345, for information and support
350 cancer patients are transported to treatment facilities
348 Reach to Recovery visits are made to women with breast cancer
155 cancer patients and family members attend support groups
100 cancer patients attend Look Good, Feel Better sessions to help cope with the side affects of cancer treatment.