It is hard to imagine a group of people who are more passionate about what they do than the Surry Cancer Awareness Team. This group of volunteers is dedicated to educating the public on cancer awareness and lightening the load of cancer patients in the local community, focusing on the people who live and work in Surry County.
Judy Smith, chairperson of the team who in December will be a 20 year survivor, says that the group started around 2000 and membership is now comprised of about ten hardworking, active volunteers, most of whom are cancer survivors.
Promoting cancer awareness and education is one of the primary aims of Surry County Awareness Team. They provide awareness programs to church groups, civic groups, businesses and the public. “Anybody that wants us to come out and do a program, we will do it,” said Smith.
The team creates packets of information that are shared with local surgeons. The packets contain information for newly diagnosed cancer patients, with topics ranging from what to expect during chemo, decisions to make, questions to ask and how to talk to your doctor.
Surry Cancer Awareness Team member Susie Hooker says that it’s important for people to know what’s going on in their own bodies. “If you find a lump in your breast and your doctor suggests you wait six months to do something about it, jump in and do it now.” That’s exactly what Hooker did and she credits that proactive action with saving her life.
The group promotes people taking charge of their own health. When Surry Cancer Awareness Team member Carolyn Largen was diagnosed with breast cancer in the late 80s, she researched the options available at the time and decided to have reconstructive surgery at the same time as her mastectomy. “They cored me like a cantaloupe,” Largen says. The procedure wasn’t being done locally at that time and Largen would not have known it was possible if she had not researched it herself. She had to travel to Orlando, Florida, to have the procedure done but Largen says, “They do it at Baptist now.”
According to the manufacturer’s instructions of the silicone implants that Largen has, she gets a breast MRI every three years to check for leakage. “They’re like tires,” she says. “You need new ones after a while. I’m on my second pair.” Largen’s decision to replace mammograms with breast MRI’s is an example of a cancer survivor taking charge of her own health and educating themselves on the decisions to be made.
One of the functions of Surry Cancer Awareness Team is to organize and coordinate community health fairs. At these fairs, screening is provided to the public by their partners which include Northern Hospital of Surry County, Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital, Mount Airy Ob-Gyn and others.
At these fairs, information is provided by local businesses and organizations such as Dr. James Wells, Mount Airy Foot and Ankle, Mountain Valley Hospice, Beltone and Dr. James Shipley. Fitness evaluations and information is provided by Armfield, ProHealth and Reeves Community Center.
Legal services are also sometimes available at the fairs when Sarah Stevens volunteers her services completing health care power of attorney and living wills at the fairs.
“We really appreciate Scenic Ford for partnering with us for the last several years and allowing us to use their showroom as our health fair location,” said Susie Hooker.
The Surry Cancer Awareness Team also participates in other organization’s health fairs, providing information to participants or cancer awareness screenings.
The team also shares information with the public by placing various cancer awareness flyers in public locations, such as libraries. The Mount Airy Public Library has a full selection of flyers and brochures relating to cancer, including the Surry Cancer Awareness Team’s own flyer. “We’ll put them anywhere we can leave them,” said Hooker.
Support for other charities
The Surry Cancer Awareness Team strives to support organizations that support the local community, such as Susan G. Komen North West North Carolina (Komen NWNC). Since 2001, each year Surry County has been the recipient of a Komen grant for screening of underinsured and uninsured residents. Last year’s grant was $25,000. and the year before was $45,000. Since 2001, the grants have totaled more than $400,000.
The recipient of the grant varies from year to year but for the past several years has been either Surry County Health and Nutrition, Northern Hospital or Hugh Chatham. These grants allow underinsured and uninsured people to receive a mammogram when they otherwise would not have been able to afford one.
Awareness team member Susie Hooker says of Komen NWNC, “we support them because they support us.” Earlier this year with the help of 13 Bones and their staff, Surry Cancer Awareness Team raised almost $4,000. for the local Komen affiliate.
The team also supports the American Cancer Society.
The Surry Cancer Awareness Team tries to lighten the load on Surry County cancer patients by helping with an electricity bill, providing gas cards, buying groceries or household supplies or water bill for folks who need assistance. They also help to pay employee health insurance premiums while cancer patients are out of work undergoing treatment so that they don’t lose their insurance.
Gas cards are made available to both Baptist and Forsyth Cancer Centers here in Surry County. “If people don’t have gas money to get to their treatment, all of the research in the world isn’t worth a hill of beans,” says Susie Hooker.
The team does not initiate fundraisers but helps families and friends of cancer patients with fundraising events by providing food, drinks, door prizes and manpower.
Surry Cancer Awareness Team depends on the generosity of the community to make their work possible. They accept donations and have fundraising events to fund their endeavors. Other organizations also raise money for them. Millennium Charter Academy has a program every year to benefit the organization. Prism Medical Products in Elkin has been a big supporter. Their employees had a fundraising drive specifically for Surry Cancer Awareness Team last October.
The team is always looking for volunteers and donations. If you think you would be interested in helping or donating, call 336-789-2460.
In addition, if you are or know of a Surry County cancer patient that could use some assistance, please call 789-2460 and let them know.
Surry Cancer Awareness Team meets the third Thursday of each month at 5:30 p.m. at Franklin Heights United Methodist Church. Anybody interested in volunteering or donating is welcome to attend. Also, cancer patients and their family members are welcome to sit in. The meetings sometimes feature speakers.
More information on the Surry Cancer Awareness Team is available at the Mount Airy Public Library, by calling 336-789-2460, or contacting any member. Their Facebook page is Surry Cancer Awareness Team.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699 or on Twitter @BillColvard.