|Community Supporting Cancer Patients
through Cancer LifeNet
|Above and Beyond the Call of Duty
Patient’s Life is Better … All Because Someone Cares
|The Power of Positive Times Two
Couple Battling Cancer Get Support from Each Other … and Their Caregivers
When someone receives a cancer diagnosis, three words echo in his or her mind long after leaving the doctor’s office. “You have cancer.” It is not until one has accepted the diagnosis and is often a few appointments into a treatment plan, a patient begins to ask questions a physician cannot answer: Why me? How could this happen? What do I do next? What about my family? Who can help me? Where do I go?
Gail Casazza, cancer survivor and program participant of Cancer LifeNet explained, “I was both in shock and devastated when I was given my cancer diagnosis. As a mom and a wife, it was hard enough to hear I had cancer, let alone figure out how I was going to manage my treatment and hold together my family.”
Gail and her family turned to Cancer LifeNet at Upper Chesapeake Health (UCH) for support through one of life’s toughest battles. The Cancer LifeNet program, founded in 2006, offers free-of-charge services to all residents of Harford and Cecil counties, regardless of where they receive their cancer treatment, including oncology nurse navigators, oncology volunteer navigators, clinical oncology social workers, and support groups for cancer patients and their loved ones.
Funded completely through philanthropic gifts made to the Upper Chesapeake Health Foundation, and through a most-valued partnership with The Chesapeake Cancer Alliance (CCA), Cancer LifeNet is a cornerstone of UCH’s mission to provide unparalleled healthcare to our community.
“My children participated in C.L.I.M.B.—Children Learn in Moments of Bravery,” said Gail, “which taught them about the disease and gave them not only the knowledge, but the confidence they needed to see me through my treatments. My husband and I participated in counseling and support groups. I even spent an evening attending the Look Good…Feel Better workshop which helped me deal with the not so fun appearance-related side effects of cancer treatment and allowed me to meet other women fighting cancer, right here in Harford County. They even offered free makeup from large companies like Lancome and L’Oreal, who donated their products to the program.”
Three years later, Gail looks back on her experience and is forever thankful for the care and compassion received at Upper Chesapeake Health.
Paying it Forward
In the summer of 2011, Gail’s twin daughters, Sara and Emily, set out to help neighbors just as their family had been helped in the fight against cancer. With a little work in the kitchen, a few decorated posters, and the recruitment of two friends, the girls opened a roadside lemonade stand near their home in Havre de Grace. Selling lemonade and tea for 75 cents a cup, they ultimately raised over $100 in support of Cancer LifeNet. “We wanted to help other families in our community,” explained Sara. “It was so nice to have customers come up and give us a dollar, or even five dollars, and say ‘keep the change.’”
“This was one of those days where, as a mom, you look at your children and give yourself a pat on the back,” Gail said. “They have huge hearts and were forced to grow up quite a bit during my illness. It is incredible to see them maturing into such kind, young adults.”
To learn more about the Cancer LifeNet Program offerings (supportive care services, education, resources, and more) please visit www.uchcancer.org.
When 65-year old Raymond Byrd first set foot into Upper Chesapeake HealthLink’s Primary Care Clinic, he was seeking treatment for a series of health concerns, some of which required daily prescriptions to stabilize cardiac and blood pressure issues. Some of those medical needs became complex when it was realized that Raymond could not read, and was therefore overmedicating himself. Adding to the challenge of the situation was Raymond’s low, fixed income that made it difficult for him to buy the medicine he needed to stay well.
Libby Koenig, a nurse at the HealthLink Clinic, was determined to help. First, she worked with Raymond to ensure he knew which medications and how much of each one to take. She helped him complete an application for a patient assistance program, allowing him to receive some medication at no cost. And she encouraged him to call her when he received mail that “looked important” so that items related to his health would not be overlooked or missed. When the time came to apply for Medicare, Libby and her husband met with Raymond and helped him sort through bags of unopened mail to locate bank statements and other important documents necessary for the application process.
“It was important that Mr. Byrd got the help he needed in order to manage his medical condition,” Libby said. “It’s all about looking at the person and their needs as a whole, and doing what is necessary to help them get better, even if takes time and effort beyond what you were hired to do.”
As their relationship blossomed into a friendship, Libby continued helping Raymond on his path toward a better, healthier life. She helped him find a new apartment, and worked with local charitable organizations to fund the required security deposit. She connected him with a volunteer tutor, who is currently helping Raymond learn to read.
Today, Raymond’s health and his outlook on life are a bit brighter, all because a nurse at the HealthLink Clinic took the time to care, encourage him and make him believe that he could take steps toward a better future.
“I know that the people there care about me,” Raymond said. “They make me feel special and have helped me so much.”
Upper Chesapeake HealthLink’s Primary Care Clinic is supported with funds raised by the hospital’s Foundation. To learn more about HealthLink and other quality programs offered by Upper Chesapeake Health, click HERE.
In May 2010, Rose Crouse was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon and liver cancers, and began chemotherapy treatment immediately at Upper Chesapeake Health’s Infusion Center. Three months later, her husband Pete was diagnosed with Stage 3 prostate cancer. In November 2010, he underwent surgery to have his prostate removed and now required radiation treatment as the next step in his continued battle.
While most couples would be devastated by these diagnoses, the Crouses are taking a different, more positive approach. With encouragement, support and of course top-notch medical care from Dr. Venkata Parsa, a hematologist and oncologist, Rose and Pete are focusing more intently on life after cancer, rather than life with cancer. They are firm believers that attitude can play a big role in their ability to recover from their diseases. Having compassionate caregivers at Upper Chesapeake Health who are truly concerned about their feelings and wellbeing is making an enormous and positive difference.
“We have so much confidence in Dr. Parsa and the rest of the team that takes care of us,” states Rose. “They are smart, caring people that have both laughed and cried with us. They have helped us realize we can fight this.”
The couple, who has lived in Harford County for the past 25 years, knew quickly that Upper Cheseapeake Health was the right place for them to seek treatment. Staying close to home and being surrounded by people from their own community was important to them. Additionally, having convenient access to their doctors, treatments, testing – all aspects of their care – has further supported their goal to continue living their lives as normally as possible. Throughout the process of treatment, Pete has continued his work as a supervisor for their family-owned business, Crouse Construction, and Rose has kept up with her duties as the office manager for their other business, KRP Trucking.
“We have learned that cancer is not a death sentence, and that the best way to get through this is to stay as healthy as we can and go about our days like we always have,” comments Rose.
Pete adds, “Upper Chesapeake Health has been fantastic! This is the place to go.”
Rose and Pete are also receiving support from Upper Chesapeake Health’s Cancer LifeNet, a network that provides information, education and support to those battling the disease, and their families, regardless of where they are receiving treatment. Cancer LifeNet is supported by the Upper Chesapeake Health Foundation and its donors.
For more information on Cancer LifeNet and its programs, click HERE.
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