PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — For many cancer patients, the feeling that they are isolated in their suffering can make them terribly lonely. It is something that officials at The Aroostook Medical Center have recognized for some time, and for the third year in a row, it is something that they are working with the American Cancer Society to try to alleviate.
The hospital, in partnership with the American Cancer Society, is hosting “Courage in the County,” a northern Maine cancer symposium that will feature informational sessions, an open discussion with a panel of cancer survivors, and a keynote address by a young cancer survivor and her parents.
The symposium, which is free to the public, will be held 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, May 4, at the McCain Conference Rooms at TAMC. Organizers will offer lunch to attendees during the lunch hour.
Brenda Baker, manager of TAMC’s Aroostook Cancer Care, said Monday that the symposium is geared toward patients, survivors, caregivers and their families.
“We want people to know that they are not alone,” she said. “There are people who are going through the same things they are, whether it be in chemotherapy or in caring for someone going through chemotherapy.”
One of the first events scheduled for the day is a keynote speech by Hadley McLean, who will be accompanied by her mother and father, Tim and Holly. McClean was diagnosed in 2011 with a medulloblastoma, a fast-growing brain tumor.
Now 10 years old, she underwent surgery as well as chemotherapy and radiation treatments, followed by rehabilitation. The McLeans will discuss the benefits of receiving support from the community, the challenges of their journey and Hadley’s courage in the face of her sickness.
Baker said she hopes Hadley’s perspective on a terrible disease will offer symposium attendees inspiration. Her parents will offer participants a caregiver’s perspective and provide information about the support systems available to both patients and caregivers.
Baker said Hadley McLean and fellow cancer survivors Dana Boardman, Rosa Michaud and Susie Schloeman will participate in a survivors’ panel.
“Survivors tell the story of their journey and the audience asks questions about all aspects of the patient’s experience,” said Baker. “We have always gotten great feedback on the panel, because that is really our main goal, is to show people that their thoughts and feelings are not unique when it comes to this disease. People usually have the same thoughts, the same feelings.”
Baker added that each survivor in the past has commonly spoken about being bolstered by support from caregivers among their friends and family and in their community.
The symposium also will feature a panel, titled “The Community Perspective,” composed of representatives from hospice, orthotics/prosthetics services, local American Cancer Society programs and other organizations that provide support to patients. The panel members will discuss resources that are available for patients and caregivers.
According to the American Cancer Society, half of all men and one-third of all women in the United States will develop cancer during their lifetimes and millions of people are living with cancer or have had cancer.
Elisa Madore, community executive of health initiatives with the New England Division of the American Cancer Society Inc., said that improved treatments and supportive care have helped people beat more and more types of cancer or extend their lives.
May is a busy month at the hospital as TAMC is dedicated to raising awareness about cancer in The County. Baker said that the hospital and the American Cancer Society both work to raise as much money as possible to support cancer patients and for research.
At the conclusion of the symposium, the May honoree for the County Cancer Hall of Courage will be unveiled. The hall is located at the A.R. Gould Memorial Hospital in Presque Isle in TAMC’s Aroostook Cancer Care entry corridor.
On May 6, TAMC’s Healthy Aging luncheon will feature Dr. Vatsala Kirtani speaking on the topic of Dealing with Your Diagnosis. The event is set for 11 a.m. at the Presque Isle Inn and Convention Center. The buffet meal is $10 per person, $5 for Healthy Aging members.
On May 16, TAMC and TownSquare Media will again collaborate to host the Rally on the Roof Fundraiser. The 24-hour event raised more than $20,000 to support Aroostook Cancer Care and Relay for Life last year. This year roof “captives” will select whether they will raise their bail funds for Aroostook Cancer Care or children’s health care services at TAMC. Funds raised from the arrest warrants will go to support the Relay for Life event at the end of the month. Warrants are available to be issued at www.rallyontheroof.com.
The hospital will again play a major role in the Aroostook County Relay for Life, set for Caribou High School on May 31 and June 1. TAMC will sponsor the Survivor Tent and host a reception for cancer survivors at the event.
To register for the symposium, sign up at www.tamc.org. For information about the daylong event, call 800-227-2345 or visit the TAMC website.