New center caters to breast cancer survivorsWritten by Danielle Stanton | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The University of Toledo recently opened a new health center, touted as the first of its kind, that goes beyond traditional medicine by providing free comprehensive, nonclinical services, from yoga to financial help, for breast cancer survivors and those with chronic illnesses.
The Center for Health and Successful Living in the College of Health Sciences is staffed by students and funded by grants from the Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the American Cancer Society as well as from the directors’ own pockets. The university provides no funding, said Amy Thompson, a professor of public health.
Thompson is co-director of the center with Timothy Jordan, also a professor of public health. The two came to breast cancer research by different avenues, but came together with a shared vision for a center that would provide for the entire well-being of the patient.
“We think this is the only center like this in the United States. We’ve searched and searched,” said Jordan, who was introduced to breast cancer research through his work with Susan G. Komen. “We’re excited for Toledo.”
The center, which opened Oct. 17, was renovated at a cost of $150,000 and provides an environment where survivors can connect. There’s a fireplace and an exercise room.
“My mom is a breast cancer survivor. I saw what she went through,” Thompson said. “I see women in treatment who have a dark look in their eyes. … It was my goal to create this center, to have this place that’s first of its kind. The beauty is our students get … to do health coaching.”
A staff of 24 students runs the day-to-day operations of the center with help from volunteers and faculty. Many are students from other departments within the college earning credits toward graduation. They have oversight from the professors but provide much of the care and education to patients.
Services are free and include health screenings, art therapy, occupational therapy, yoga classes, a dietitian, support groups, book club, patient treatment counseling, an exercise trainer and a pink sneakers walking exercise group.
One woman came in who couldn’t afford her medications and worked with an intern to reduce her monthly bill by $200, said Jeannine Everhart, the center’s business manager.
“We’re getting a lot of good feedback,” Everhart said. “People need these services and can’t afford them.”
Many of the patients report having to choose between paying for their car or their house, Thompson said. They don’t have the financial or emotional support they need.
“They don’t have someone to go grocery shopping for them,” she said. “They don’t have someone to take them to chemo appointments, or someone [to whom] they can say: ‘I’m having a bad day.’
“We’re trying to provide services that a lot of women don’t have. … We want to be a beacon of hope and light for people in our community.”
The center is trying to help low-income people, minorities, those without insurance and also those in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community by doing outreach with its mobile mammogram truck. Staff recently parked the truck at the Goodwill store on Cherry Street and served 24 women.
“They had a lot of abnormal results,” Everhart said. “They hadn’t been screened in a long time because they had no insurance.”
The mobile truck stopped by the Toledo Pride festival this year, performing 30 mammograms and breast exams.
Another way of reaching out to the community is through public events. The center’s inaugural event was a panel discussion and brunch Nov. 16 for breast cancer survivors and their families as well as those currently in treatment, service providers and those interested in learning more.
The number of patients visiting the center has been a slow trickle as they are in the beginning stages of getting the word out, but there is an obvious need, Thompson said.
In the United States, there are 3 million breast cancer survivors. Ohio has the fourth highest death rate for breast cancer. The death rate is 30 percent and should be 5 percent, Thompson said.
“People are not getting screened until later stages of cancer,” she said.
Both directors see more services in the center’s future. Thompson envisions a support group for families and an arts and crafts room for children, giving parent survivors a much-needed break. Jordan sees legal services and personalized health coaching, in which a patient’s diet and exercise routine are specifically designed for them.
“Take what you get at Bally [Total Fitness] and multiply it,” he said.
Those interested in donating their time or money to the Center for Health and Successful Living can contact the center at (419) 530-4725. The next book club meeting will be 6:30 p.m. Nov. 12 in the center, which is in the Health and Human Services building on UT’s main campus.
Tags: bisexual and transgender community, breast cancer, Center for Health and Successful Living in the College of Health Sciences, gay, low-income people, minorities, mobile mammogram, Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the American Cancer Society, those without insurance and also those in the lesbian, Timothy Jordan, University of Toledo