June 20, 2008
Hatteras Cancer Foundation is expanding its role with more support and information
By AMBERLY DYER
Hatteras Island Cancer Foundation (HICF) is revitalizing its role as a
support service to residents on Hatteras Island. Informational
and support groups are under way to facilitate a caring community for
those living with and surviving cancer, as well as their loved ones.
Judy Banks, current president, opened a recent meeting explaining that
the foundation, which began in late 2000, has successfully helped 68
families over the last eight years, to the tune of $400,000.
The group helps island cancer patients pay for medical and prescription
drug expenses not covered by insurance, and also aids them with
financial help for traveling for treatment.
“Regardless of the economy, we are positive that we will be able
to help people in financial ways,” remarked Banks. But the
foundation wanted to do more than just raise money. The members
want to provide educational information and a support network for
To this end, the board is organizing ongoing support and informational
groups. This summer, the group will meet on the third Wednesday
of each month at Our Lady of the Seas social hall in Buxton.
Additional meetings may be scheduled in off-season months.
The kick-off meeting brought Betse Kelly to discuss the new Cancer
Resource Center at the Outer Banks Hospital. Kelly is a medical
social worker employed by the hospital to coordinate and facilitate a
wide variety of information about cancer, current treatments, and
resources available to people with cancer, survivors, and their loved
The center opened in January after three years of fundraising by the
Outer Banks Hospital and various community organizations. Its
goal is to provide information and to help patients and their families
navigate the often confusing maze of treatment options and resources.
Kelly reminded the group that cancer is the leading cause of death in
North Carolina and Dare County. “One of our ‘red
flags’ [on the 2006 Health Carolinians survey] is cancer,
particularly lung and breast cancer.”
She further explained the situation in Dare County.
“Dare County is unique in the state in that it has a lower
incidence rate but a higher mortality rate. In other words, fewer
people have lung or breast cancer than the rest of North Carolina, but
they tend to not survive.”
As result the center looks at both prevention and treatment.
“We have lots of resources,” she said. In addition to
two computers for clients to research information, Kelly has heaps of
printed materials available to give to patients. In addition, she
is building a lending library.
As a social worker, Kelly knows that success depends on a support
system for the person undergoing treatment. The resource center
is available for anyone to use.
She related the story of a recent client. A woman called wanting
information on prostate cancer. Her husband received a call
confirming his diagnosis, but he had not seen his doctor to discuss
treatment options. Kelly helped the woman find information
regarding main treatment options, physicians in the region treating
prostate cancer, and she helped her develop a list of questions to take
to the doctor’s visit.
Undergoing cancer treatment can be a long and wearing process --
physically, mentally and emotionally. The center is linking with
existing community resources and services in Dare, Currituck, Hyde, and
other surrounding counties to provide support groups and activities.
For example, Kelly is partnering with the American Cancer Society to
implement its “Look Good, Feel Better,” campaign for
women. The charity provides a wide variety of cosmetics and
beauty aids for women undergoing chemotherapy and radiation
treatment. A trained volunteer cosmetologist works with the
patient to use a variety of products.
“It’s really nice products donated by Clinique, Aveda, and
other companies,” explained Kelly. To date, she has worked
individually with patients but will be working toward groups in the
Other American Cancer Society programs she is planning include the
“Man to Man” prostate cancer survivor peer support group
and a similar group for breast cancer survivors.
Support groups will be a large part of her program. Kelly is
working with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension office to develop
a family-based support model.
Amanda McDanel of the extension office and Kelly will be working to
host an evening support group where parents and other adults, such as
grandparents, with cancer can bring their children to a dinner
gathering. After dinner, the groups will split for
age-appropriate support groups and activities.
On the preventive end, Kelly hopes to host a smoking cessation group.
“Smoking has been linked not only to cancers in the lungs and
mouth, but also in bladder and other cancers,” Kelly explained.
Cancer changes lives forever, and new treatments mean that many people
live longer than even a decade ago. As a result, the medical and
social support communities are learning about long-term survival.
“Cancer survivors themselves are now teaching professionals what
they need,” advised Kelly. Issues such as continued
employment, health insurance, and the long-term impact of chemotherapy
and radiation are critical to survivors as they develop what Kelly
calls “a new normal.”
The Resource Center is actively engaging community partnerships, and
Kelly is excited to be working with the Cancer Foundation. She is
willing to provide focus information sessions, help with health fairs,
and to facilitate the attendance of cancer specialists at the Wednesday
support group meetings.
One area of particular interest to the evening’s attendees was
the role of the University of North Carolina (UNC) Lineberger Center in
local treatment options.
Kelly explained that various sub-specialists will be rotating through
the Outer Banks every other week to provide consultative services to
area residents. The primary intent is to provide second opinions
and treatment options to patients, not on-going treatment.
“It is important for the public to know when to see the specialist,” she advised.
Although patients may self-refer, Kelly notes that the purpose is not
diagnostic. Again, she related an example. If a person
believes he or she should have a skin cancer check or see a suspicious
mole, that person should probably go see a dermatologist or plastic
surgeon first for examination and biopsy. Once diagnosed, the
sub-specialist would be an excellent resource for treatment options and
Attending the group were three community members at various stages of
diagnosis, treatment, and survival. They found the information
about the resource center helpful and offered Kelly insights into what
made their treatment manageable.
“Peer support is number one. I know that from personal experience,” advised Brenda Bucciorelli.
Another attendee, recently diagnosed and considering treatment, stated
the obvious. “You want more information.”
Kelly agreed that with the rapidly advancing and changing treatment
protocols, knowing what the most current information can be daunting,
especially when facing a frightening diagnosis.
She reminded attendees that she is an active participant in their
search. “I’m there to help you search for information
and guide you to sites with the most up-to-date information.”
The three cancer patients/survivors agreed that the group provided
excellent information, and even a support group would be helpful.
Nearly all had also been caregivers for a family member with cancer, so
they noted that they would invite friends to come as well.
While the numbers may seem small, the early response to the group
proves promising. The Cancer Foundation invites cancer patients,
survivors, and caregivers not only to attend future meetings, but to
contact them with ideas for future topics or requested speakers as they
respond to community needs.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
The Hatteras Island Cancer Foundation will be
hosting a support and informational group for cancer patients,
survivors, and caregivers each month during the summer. The
meeting is held the third Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. (July 16 and August
20) at Our Lady of the Seas social hall in Buxton. Sydnee
Slaughter, a social worker now living in Hatteras, will be facilitating
the group. She may be reached at (252) 473-0830 or [email protected].
In addition, members of the Cancer Foundation Board are available to
connect people with the group and share their ideas. Contact
information is at http://hatterasdesigns.net/HICF/contact.htm Information on services and grant applications is available at the same Web site.
The Cancer Resource Center is available at the Outer Banks Hospital in
Nags Head. Drop-in access is available, but Kelly recommended
calling ahead to assure she is accessible when you arrive, particularly
for residents of Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands. The Center is
reached at (252) 449-7350. Watch local papers and the Island Free
Press for information on upcoming support groups, special programs and