Cancer Services provides help in hard times

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By Kirsten Laskey

Cancer is something Blaire Larson knows about personally.

Her father-in-law was diagnosed with cancer and even though her husband is part of the medical research at the University of New Mexico Health Center, it was still an overwhelming experience for them both.

It was a hard time for them, but it seemed even harder for her mother-in-law, Larson said. There were not a lot of resources available.

Larson said she thought if it was overwhelming for them, what must it be like for other families? As a result, Cancer Services of New Mexico was born.

Larson, who serves as the president, is inviting the Los Alamos community to the upcoming retreat, which will be held Sept. 12-14 at the Lifeway Glorieta Conference in Glorieta.

The conference is free and open to all cancer patients, survivors and their loved ones. It will provide participants with everything they need to know for coping with cancer on a daily basis.

The program, according a Cancer Services of New Mexico press release, will combine discussion and lectures by many of New Mexico’s leading cancer specialists with fun activities that provide a break from the day-to-day challenges of living with cancer.

Educational sessions will include topics such as choosing the best treatment/clinical trial, new developments in cancer treatment, “Ask the Oncologist” panels, coping with treatment-related side effects and accessing cancer-related information on the Internet.

This year, 40 speakers and presenters will be participating in the retreat, Larson said.

An invitation to the retreat is extended to all of New Mexico. Many people seem to accept. Larson said usually 200-300 people attend.

“(We’re) actually the largest cancer education (entity) in our state and the largest program of its type in the U.S.,” Larson said.

She encourages people to attend for two reasons. “Number one is we offer a breadth and depth of education in one place that you just can’t get (in the rest of the state),” Larson said. “(Plus it helps) families get away together, spend time together and with other families going through similar things.”

Two past Los Alamos participants endorse the program.

Cancer survivors Kathryn Kistner and Helen Philips attended the program in 2006.

“It was just a wonderful weekend,” Kistner said. “It was a positive experience for me.”

Philips agreed. “I thought it was very well done.”

Both said they learned about the retreat through their oncologist.

Kistner said she benefited from the resources and education classes the retreat offers and the assurance of “just knowing there’s a program available.”

Philips said she liked the advice a therapist gave on medication and relaxation as well as the oncologist panel.

She recommends other people to try it out “because I think they will find it uplifting to see other people share their coping and problems.”

There is no charge to participate in the retreat. Larson said they are fortunate to have funding from the Northern New Mexico Grants Group.

Other supporters include the New Mexico Department of Health, United Way of Central New Mexico, Alexion, Amgen, Eli Lilly & Co., Genentech, MGI Pharma, Millennium, Novartis Oncology, OSI Pharmaceuticals, sanofi-aventis Oncology, VistaCare/VistaCare Hospice Foundation, Ethicon Endo-Surgery, Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Varian Medical Systems, Advanced Communications & Electronics, Inc., Graphic Connection, The Printer’s Press, Roche, Sprint, the U.S. Postal Service and Wal-Mart.

Space is limited, so apply as early. For information or to request an application packet, contact Mike Capeless at 505-239-4239 or go to www.CancerServicesNM.org.