|Wesley Dedman, a junior at Stone Bridge High School and Logan Hashagen, a senior at Loudoun County High School, who volunteered for the day, speak with a breast cancer patient and assist her with selecting a wig. Times-Mirror Photo/Karen Graham|
With the topic of breast cancer taking center stage in October, Inova Loudoun Hospital and the Loudoun Breast Health Network organized a community event and educational session Oct. 26 at the hospital's Lansdowne campus.
"This is an opportunity to give back to our breast cancer patients and their families," said Barbara McDonnell, RN, a cancer navigator at Inova Loudoun Hospital.
The event was organized into morning and afternoon sessions. In the first session, participants listened to speakers discuss the latest research in breast cancer treatment studies, titled "New Horizons in Breast Care: Genetics, Genomics and Epigenetics."
Pam Lay, who was treated for breast cancer in 2009, said "she learned a lot from the morning session about where medicine is going with genomics."
"It is such a supportive environment here and the biggest thing is knowing there are others out there and seeing the community organizations," Lay added.
The afternoon session was set up with local cancer organizations offering free products, massages, makeup, mastectomy bras, head scarves, wigs and mini yoga sessions.
"We have at least 20 door prizes, each worth about $50. Today is all about giving away," said McDonnell.
McDonnell and her team partner Christine Stone, RN, said they offer many services at the hospital to guide patients through their cancer journey.
McDonnell, who is a breast cancer survivor herself, explained Inova's program "Life With Cancer," which serves as a community of hope offering guidance, counseling, a shoulder to lean on, physical and psychological therapy and much more.
"We do all of the teaching for all types of cancer diagnoses," said Deborah Cook, RN. "This includes learning about the disease and side effect management, and offering a multitude of programs to patients and their families," Cook added.
While Life with Cancer's offices are at Inova hospitals, their services are free and open to anyone no matter where you are being treated for cancer.
Tammy Gray, who serves on the board of the Loudoun Breast Health Network (LBHN), explained the importance of Saturday's program. "We wanted to get the word out to the community about the resources and information available to help with breast cancer patients and their families," Gray said.
"All of our money stays in Loudoun. Our pink assistance fund helps anyone who applies for financial assistance receive financial help with things such as rent, car and utility payments," Gray said.
The all-volunteer organization will also drive people from chemotherapy sessions, arrange to pay for medical bills and assist with purchasing medications.
"We helped one breast cancer patient who was taking only half of the medication that she was supposed to because that was all she could afford," Gray said.
So far this year, LBHN has helped almost 50 women and spent $70,000. "We may be a wealthy community, but a lot of people are hurting financially," Gray added.
Another participating organization was the Step Sisters, a Brambleton-based group who formed to help their neighbors going through cancer treatments.
"We offer to pay for house cleaning services, transportation to and from medical appointments," said Angela Fuentes, who is a member of the Step Sisters and a five-year cancer survivor.
The Step Sisters organize three main events to raise money throughout the year, which include a golf tournament in the fall, a Ribbon Run in the spring and an online auction.
Desiree Polo, a yoga instructor who works for Life with Cancer, said she participates with the group because she wanted to do something to help people after her friend lost her battle to cancer.
"Everybody's journey is different and their needs change depending on where they are in their journey. Yoga is support without really talking about it and it makes people feel more empowered. It doesn't mean that everything stops because they have cancer and this provides them with a whole body experience," Polo said.
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