Cancer survivors sought for outreach program

Thursday, June 11, 2009

"Finding out you have breast cancer can be devastating, but having a friend who's been there can help," noted Sherrie Mitchell, community program representative for the American Cancer Society in Northeast Arkansas. "The American Cancer Society's Reach to Recovery program provides that friendship to newly-diagnosed patients, but the program is in need of local volunteers."

The ACS is seeking interested volunteers for training in a session to be held beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 20, in Stroud Hall of the St. Bernards Annex in Jonesboro. The program seeks to match volunteers who are breast cancer survivors with newly-diagnosed breast cancer patients or anyone with a concern about breast cancer.

"The effort is designed to help these individuals meet the emotional, physical and cosmetic needs related to the disease and its treatment," Mitchell added.

She also noted that volunteers for this program are carefully chosen and trained by the American Cancer Society.

"Volunteers must be at least one year post-treatment for breast cancer and meet strict criteria," she added. "They must be well-adjusted and emotionally stable, have a good knowledge of personal ethics, maintain strict confidentiality and participate in ongoing training."

The regional effort is now in its eighth year, and referrals are obtained from a variety of doctors and clinics. In the 16-county area served by Mitchell, there are a total of 35 volunteers, including Nancy Hardcastle of Piggott. Currently Hardcastle is the only active volunteer in Clay County, and Mitchell is hoping others will sign up for the training session.

"We're also wanting to attract breast cancer survivors from a variety of age groups," Mitchell added. "It can really make a difference when advice is coming from someone close to your own age."

Sadly, Mitchell notes that the need for the program has continued to grow over the years.

"We've seen an increase in referrals every year," she observed. "We had a total of 115 ladies referred during the fiscal year that ended last August, and we've had 90 so far this year, so I'm sure we're going to see another increase for 2009."

Each patient that is referred to the ACS is given a "Reach to Recovery" kit of pamphlets and brochures and receives a handmade comfort pillow.

"We can also provide a lot of information on programs available through the American Cancer Society, free services and even prosthetics," she added.

Mitchell also noted the need for Reach to Recovery volunteers is great in both Clay and Poinsett Counties.

Breast cancer survivors that are interested in becoming a volunteer must register prior to Wednesday, June 17, to participate in the training. Those who wish to register or obtain more information may call Mitchell at 870-934-0001.

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