The Baltimore County Cancer Coalition was formed years ago as part of the programs initiated by the Tobacco Restitution Funds (TRF). The Coalition consists of health department staff, service programs, cancer patients, survivors and caregivers. It meets regularly throughout Baltimore County with a mission to raise awareness about cancer, increase screenings for particular cancers and to reduce the overall incidence of cancer.
To address its goals of raising awareness, the “Cancer Update Conference” was held Thursday, June 17 at the North Baltimore Plaza Hotel, Greenspring Avenue in Timonium. With over 70 people in attendance, the networking among the cancer community was fantastic. Health department staff met some of their in-the-field partners; service providers, patients and caregivers exchanged information; and presentations were provided to the group.
The keynote speaker, Dr. Schraeder, Medical Oncologist at University of Maryland Medical/St. Joseph Medical Center (Cancer Institute UMM/SJH), presented information, statistics and explanations relating to the newest information available relating to breast cancer, colon cancer and melanoma – the three topics of focus for the day’s program. It was interesting to see which cancers have an increased rate of incidence and/or an increased survival rate. And fortunately, there was some good news in terms of the decreased rate of incidence in some cancers and/or an increase in survivor rates for those same cancers.
Anna Renault, a 37-year cancer survivor, spoke about Survivorship. She told her story of surviving multiple cancers throughout those 37 years, the need to find the best doctor for each diagnosis, and the need to fight for the care that will save one’s life. She gave vignettes of some of her challenges after being told she was too young to have this or that cancer; fighting to have her insurance cover a procedure although she didn’t quite fit their criteria; and how awesome it was for the Lord to put her in the right place for one medical problem that discovered her ovarian tumors early which lead to surviving that experience. Anna also shared her love of writing as well as the books she has written to help raise cancer awareness. She even told about John Morris, a talented artist in Scotland, illustrating one of her books and visiting Maryland in 2013 to help promote the book.
Cindy Carter, President and co-founder of the Cancer Support Foundation, spoke after lunch. She explained in detail the challenges cancer patients face in getting assistance for non-medical issues — housing, utilities, car expenses and other necessities of life. She also explained several limitations in Maryland such as no temporary disability funding and no unemployment benefits for a patient who is fired for missing too much time. Carter did detail some steps forward that were made in helping to provide healthy, prepared meals through a cooperative working relationship between Kelly’s Dream (a non-profit organization), Meals on Wheels and the Hospital Charitable Foundation at MedStar Franklin Square Hospital’s Cancer Center. While some progress is being made, so much more needs to be done.
The day ended with an interesting presentation by the State’s Omsbudsman, Mrs. Redd, who gave those present some information on what her office does, how that office can help cancer patients and the numbers and websites that will be most useful in helping the patients get the care they need after being turned down or rejected by medical providers, insurance carriers and other brick walls they encounter.