Rogers: Cancer doesnâ€™t stop, but neither do we
We're all struggling with a new normal during these unprecedented times. For roughly 23,300 Oregonians who will hear the words "you have cancer" this year, the stakes are higher, and the uncertainty greater.
As the executive director of the American Cancer Society Oregon and SW Washington and the chair of the area board, we are deeply concerned about the spread of COVID-19 and its impact on cancer patients, many of whom are the most vulnerable because of compromised immune systems.
Things are changing rapidly, but one thing is certain: Cancer hasn't stopped, so neither have we. Cancer patients, survivors and their families need our help more than ever — and we need your support to keep these vital patient and caregiver resources available during this difficult time.
What is the American Cancer Society doing to help during the pandemic? The Society has created a Coronavirus, COVID-19 and Cancer Hub on cancer.org to answer common questions about the coronavirus outbreak and provide up-to-date information for cancer patients and caregivers about treatments and care.
We're available 24 hours a day, seven days a week through our National Cancer Information Center and cancer hotline at 800-227-2345, where trained specialists provide the latest information about coronavirus and cancer, as well as how COVID-19 is impacting our programs and services. In March, 80% of calls to our hotline were related to COVID-19.
As COVID-19 shifts the needs of cancer patients and communities, many of the Society's patient support programs have become completely virtual, including Reach to Recovery. Reach to Recovery connects newly diagnosed breast cancer patients with survivors for peer-to-peer support — now done completely by phone and email. In Oregon and Southwest Washington, this program served more than 25 patients in 2019, and it will likely serve an even greater number in 2020 due to COVID-19.
We also advocate for public policy to fight cancer through our nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN). ACS CAN staff and volunteers ensured that the federal stimulus relief packages include access to care provisions to help cancer patients who may be at greatest risk from COVID-19 and provisions to benefit the health systems and nonprofits that serve them to allow them to continue their work. ACS CAN continues to survey cancer patients to learn how the pandemic is affecting their lives and their care in order to set our policy priorities as we advocate for future relief packages. Learn more about our advocacy efforts during this crisis at fightcancer.org.
As our nation recovers from this pandemic, the American Cancer Society will need help to support vulnerable cancer patients. We attack cancer from every angle. We promote healthy lifestyles to prevent cancer. We research cancer and its causes to find more better treatments. We fight for lifesaving policy changes. We provide everything from emotional support to the latest cancer information, and we do it all 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
If you or a loved one faces a cancer diagnosis, contact us at cancer.org.
David Rogers is executive director of the Oregon and SW Washington chapter of the American Cancer Society, which is headquartered in Tigard.
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