Resources: Get Cancer Checkups
By Dianne Anderson
Just about every cancer known to science – breast cancer, kidney cancer, lung cancer, uterus cancer, prostate cancer – provided a loud wake-up call for Ramona Lawson, and survivors within her family circle.
Remembering those who died has changed the family’s approach to life, health and diet.
“Some of us have become vegetarians, some of us are doing more exercising, we’re drinking more water. Your mindset changes. You actually start to respect the disease. It’s nothing to play with,” she said.
Before she started volunteering with The G.R.E.E.N Foundation (TGF) she admits that she never got her annual exams. Since then, she hasn’t missed one exam for five years.
She commends the foundation’s founder, Ernesta Wright for her diligence in bringing awareness and resources to the community.
It also helps that Wright has a profound knack for making people feel guilty enough to get out and get tested.
“Ernesta beat me up. I could hear her in my head,” Lawson laughs.
In turn, today she helps support the foundation as a breast health advocate. Recently, she got up at 5:00 a.m. to provide transportation for one lady who had a six-hour surgery on uterus cancer. The client needed a ride, and extra encouragement.
Lawson, a former foundation board member, continues as a mouthpiece in promoting awareness, and helping others access essential health and financial resources for those in need.
She has seen firsthand how positive pressure can help the community get the life-saving services they need. She said TGF is constantly bringing health educators to the table.
A little goes a long way.
“Ernesta pushed one lady to get tested at one of the mobile [units], they were there to catch it at Stage 3 and she’s alive today,” she said. “The lady had no clue.
Ernesta Wright, TGF founder and CEO, said their customized webinars and monthly outreach helps women and men learn about many free services available to them. Recently, a licensed clinician spoke about the impact of mental health for those going through cancer, or considering treatment.
She covered all the basics, such as what to do to get health coverage to pay for breast reconstruction after cancer surgery. In another collaboration, the foundation also works with men who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Their outreach and webinars give men and women a place to talk about their concerns and tests. Those who are diagnosed and need cancer treatment can talk with survivors. Recently, they have opened the space to embrace the mental health side of cancer care.
She said many services have expanded through the pandemic, including mental health services.
“We’re bringing in a life-clinician, we’re working with individuals, the alternatives and what they can do through their own health coverage. Mental health is supportive, and the Affordable Care Act gave everybody an opportunity,” said Wright.
Her nonprofit provides follow-up for those dealing with diagnosis and treatment, and emotional support. She said they send out supplies, nutritional items and help with wellness checkups.
“For those that request it, we have small financial support to help with out-of-pocket costs, and transportation costs to help supplement or buy healthier items at the grocery store,” she said.
Over the past year, several medical organizations are saying that cancer checkups have decreased due to the pandemic, but they warn not to wait for treatment or to get tested.
There concerns about serious consequences to delaying cancer screenings, which have been pushed to the back burner since COVID-19.
“There was talk from the medical community that people are not having screenings done at this time,” Wright said.
The National Cancer Institute researchers say that delaying diagnosis and treatment due to the pandemic means that some cancers will be advanced by the time patients come in for testing.
Some cancers are slow-growing, but often, cancers caught in the earlier stages are easier to treat.
“The perception among many people is still that ‘this can wait,’” said Dr. Muller of the University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center. “What’s unfortunate is that screening really can’t wait.”
Almost a year into the pandemic, she said doctors are now seeing cancers that may be more advanced than they usually see because people have had to wait.
Dr. Muller is a leader in the NCI Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP), which saw a 25% reduction in cancer diagnoses at their site between 2019 and 2020, partly attributed to decreased referrals from primary care doctors, and fewer people going to the doctor.
“It’s also a lot harder to diagnose a problem through telemedicine,” Dr. Muller said. “And people just do not want to go to the emergency room.”
For more information, see http://www.thegreenfoundation.net/