Cancer survivor gets back to giving

September 29, 1994|By TaNoah V. Sterling | TaNoah V. Sterling,Sun Staff Writer

Diana Patterson was in the best of health when a life-threatening breast cancer struck.

The 53-year-old Arnold woman was not overweight, she ate right and exercised, and she had annual mammograms, as most health groups suggest for women over 50.

She was even a volunteer for the American Cancer Society and on the board of directors for her local Three Rivers unit that encompasses Severna Park.

So it came as a shock to her in February when she visited the doctor on an unrelated issue, one month after having a mammogram, and her physician said something had been overlooked.

"Rather than notifying me that the results were suspicious, the results were filed [in the office] by mistake," she said.

By April, she was receiving help from the group she had recently begun to serve rather than giving it. Tonight, she'll try and get back on the giving end as she participates in an American Cancer Society town meeting in Severna Park.

"Prior to my diagnosis, I would have described myself as knowledgeable about cancer and its treatment," Mrs. Patterson wrote in the American Cancer Society's newsletter. "But in April I realized how woefully ignorant I was in the face of various treatment options."

Now, Mrs. Patterson is a breast cancer survivor who wants to help the Cancer Society reach more people with educational programs about prevention and early detection of the various types of cancer.

Tonight's meeting will give the American Cancer Society an idea what the county's educational needs are and how the group can help.

"We've got to do a better job at getting the word out about how to prevent cancer," said spokeswoman Robin Oldfather. "We'll show you what we have, and you tell us where we can use it."

According to the American Cancer Society, there were more than 1.2 million new cases of cancer in the United States this year. Maryland had 23,500 new cases, Pennsylvania had 69,000 and Delaware had 3,800.

Maryland prostate and breast cancer cases total more than 7,100 cases -- the largest two categories.

Anne Arundel County deputy health officer Dr. Katherine Farrell will speak at the meeting tonight, along with Sue Jaeger, a cancer survivor, and Dr. Robert Graw, a children's oncologist.

The county's branch of the American Cancer Society is interested in forming "an agencywide, countywide coalition to form a strategy to help the American Cancer Society better serve the community," Mrs. Oldfather said.

"There are a lot people don't know or don't take action," on the information they know about cancer, she added.

Something many people may not know about are the various programs the Cancer Society offers for free.

They include:

* Patient services such as supplying wigs, wheelchairs or transportation.

* "Look Good, Feel Better," a program for female cancer patients that provides make-overs, embellishment tips and free make-up materials.

* Support groups for cancer patients and their family members.

* Posters, stickers, and other literature to county schools that encourage children to remain smoke-free.

This evening's meeting will end with a question and answer period and a group discussion.

The American Cancer Society town meeting will be held at the Magic Dish restaurant at 760 Ritchie Highway, from 5 to 7 p.m. There is no cost and refreshments will be served.

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