By Carl Berkowitz, TCCC Volunteer
Though the coronavirus pandemic has upended health care in the region, Tri-Cities Cancer Center Foundation board member Misty Ovens wants the community to know that the nonprofit stands ready to adapt to our rapidly changing world.
“We’re having to change the nature of our activities, moving from in-person fundraising events to virtual events and doing more home outreach activities for our patients,” she said, adding that she’s confident that the Foundation will continue to serve the community in the days to come by providing important care and education for cancer patients, survivors and their families.
The Big ‘C’
Misty is no stranger to living through trying and scary times. The Richland woman was 34 when she discovered she had breast cancer. She had been given a clean bill of health during a general physical exam a year after getting married. But while doing a self-examination after her appointment, she felt a small lump in her breast. Her husband, Bryan, convinced her to return to her doctor, who confirmed Misty’s suspicion and sent her for an ultrasound, which identified a second lump. This was followed by biopsies, and within a week, a meeting with Tri-City breast surgical oncologist Dr. John Droesch to discuss treatment options.
“Dr. Droesch, and later Dr. Tom Rado (founder of Columbia Basin Hematology and Oncology, now Kadlec Hematology and Oncology), were infinitely patient in answering our questions. They were also supportive of my desire to get an outside opinion from the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance,” Misty said. The Seattle doctors agreed with the treatment plan outlined by Drs. Droesch and Rado. The Seattle exams reassured Misty and made her more appreciative of the importance of having world-class medical care in our community.
The experience convinced Misty that an early cancer diagnosis was not necessarily a death sentence. Raised by her grandparents for whom “the big C” meant the end of the line, Misty can now laugh when talking about how this attitude from an earlier generation allowed her to take her paranoia and fear to “all new levels.” She credits her husband and her Tri-City medical team in helping her keep it all in perspective. “They all spoke to me in a way I could understand and made me and everyone feel much better about the diagnosis. Their patience and understanding was essential in helping me get through my treatments,” she said.
Finding a Sisterhood
Misty’s active support of the Tri-Cities Cancer Center began when she and three friends met informally to talk about their experiences with cancer. They had much in common – they were a similar age and were trying to manage their families and careers, while also trying to navigate through their cancer diagnosis. They found these informal meetings to be good therapy and eventually worked with the Cancer Center to create a more formal group, which they did in 2013. The first meeting included about 10 women, all of whom had been recently diagnosed with cancer. It wasn’t long after that Warrior Sisterhood became a sanctioned support group through the Cancer Center.
Since then, Warrior Sisterhood has grown to more than 150 cancer patients and survivors with a goal of empowering local women with cancer or a cancer-related diagnosis, and survivors. The group offers emotional support with monthly group meetings, fun gatherings and activities, and a private Facebook group. It also provides nominal financial grants to newly diagnosed women under 45 and distributes chemotherapy bags packed with useful items to help make infusions more comfortable.
“Our goal from the beginning was to provide general fellowship among women who have gone through cancer and are fighting to get their lives back,” Misty said.
Keeping the Foundation’s Focus
Seeing that the Warrior Sisterhood was on strong footing with an outstanding leadership team, Misty stepped down from the board in 2019 to focus her energy as a board member for the Cancer Center Foundation. She said her cancer journey helped her to better prioritize her activities. With only 24 hours in a day, a full-time supervisory job with Washington’s Child Protective Services and her own children and family, she constantly has to decide where and how to best invest her time.
Like other Foundation board members, she supports many of the nonprofit’s activities, many of which are live, in-person events. The Foundation team and board members like Misty have been working on alternative plans to serve the community in the wake of the pandemic.
“Ending our events was not an option,” Misty said. “These activities are necessary so we can continue to provide logistical, emotional and financial support to cancer patients and their families. Our fundraising efforts allow us to provide the many no-cost screenings and cancer-education classes we offer on a monthly basis.”
The Foundation’s mission and Misty’s passion to help others continue to help lead the way. To learn how to help the Foundation, contact Misty at (509) 737-3413 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about Warrior Sisterhood and Tri-Cities Cancer Center Foundation:
By: Chuck DeGooyer, CEO, Tri-Cities Cancer Center
We’re nearly six months into 2020 and we’ve each had to face many challenges from the COVID-19 virus. It has thoroughly stressed each of us to our limits, but through it all, I am proud to say we have continued providing world-class care at your Tri-Cities Cancer Center. And in spite of this challenge, I have personally gained many “learnings,” the most important are related to the courage of our patients and their families, my team and their families, and our community that we serve. I’d like to share a few with you.
The Tri-Cities Cancer Center is a mission-based organization and because our patients, their families, and their physicians entrust their cancer care to us, I’d like to say THANK YOU for allowing us to serve you. No one wishes for a diagnosis that says “you have cancer” but when you do need care, we promise to serve you with world-class cancer care. This is our mission and we THANK YOU for entrusting your care to us.
We have built a team of caring professionals who have committed their careers to caring for patients and for providing the very best each and every day. In spite of having to wear masks, gloves, face shields, and protective gowns, our TCCC team is committed to providing you the very best care and I say THANK YOU to my team because they are here to care for you in the very best way. In spite of the COVID virus risk to themselves or to their families, they take careful precautions every day with every single patient. THANK YOU to my team for providing world-class care each and every day.
And finally, I want to say THANK YOU to our community for your ongoing assistance to our mission and to our TCCC Foundation so we can continue offering no-cost support services for our community. From meals for our cancer patients to masks for our staff, patients, and community to wear, we continue to be so appreciative of your assistance. Financial gifts from donors continue to come in different ways to support our efforts and it’s this extra value that makes the difference to our patient’s care. THANK YOU Tri-Cities community for your continued support that has never wavered during our entire time in service to our community.
In one of the most difficult times in my career and our lives, my greatest learning is to say THANK YOU to so many that have earned our thanks. We are your Tri-Cities Cancer Center.
Thank you Tri-Cities!
Because of your support the Tri-Cities Cancer Center Foundation is able to provide a meal from a local restaurant to cancer patients every Friday through the first week of June during the Covid-19 pandemic.
526 meals in total!!
Your generosity and support ensures no person faces cancer alone in our community.
Also a big thank you to our Cancer Crushing restaurant partners who are feeding our cancer patients and their families over the coming weeks:
- Tsunami Catering
- Fiction at J. Bookwalter
- CG Public House & Catering
- Ethos Bakery & Cafe
- Wine o’Clock
- The Bradley
- Twigs Bistro & Martini Bar
In 1995 a physician predicted lung cancer patient Marjorie Felder had only 4 ½ to 6 months to live. A second physician confirmed this grim prognosis. Reflecting on these predictions, Marj notes “I’m still here, 25 years later, with two wonderful children, two beautiful grandchildren and lots of good memories.”
From a basement to a state-of-the-art campus
Marj’s first cancer diagnosis was in 1992. She’s frank to admit that this news simply “shut me down.” Worse, there were few places in the Tri-Cities at that time where she and husband Chuck could learn more about treatment options or surgeons who could perform the specialized procedure she needed. The procedure was eventually done at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Portland with the follow-up radiation treatment initiated at Kennewick General Hospital (KGH), which was the early home of the Tri-Cities Cancer Center.
She and two others were the very first to be served by the Center at a time when construction of a new facility was just getting underway. This construction work has taken the Center from 4 small rooms in the basement of KGH to a beautifully landscaped campus and a 36,000 square foot building housing (among other facilities) 10 exam rooms, an on-site reference library and cutting edge radiation oncology technology. There have been other changes; Marj recalls that things were slower back then with 15 employees serving mostly local patients. In contrast, the Center now has over 50 employees assisting more than 700 patients a year
coming from all over southeast Washington. While she appreciates most of the changes, she wistfully recalled that protocols were more relaxed during her first visit when Chuck was allowed to sit alongside her during the radiation treatment. But asked to contrast the Center then and now, she said ‘today it’s simply beautiful.’
One thing that has not changed is the care and personal attention patients receive. A familiar face to current patients is Kristi Rhodes, TCCC Radiation Therapist. Kristi was in the basement with Marj for her first treatment and is still serving Cancer Center patients. “She has the same professional, warm and personable tone I remember from back then”, Marj says.
Loving support and laughter are key
Like many patients, Marj found it crucial to have a companion with her during medical exams. This support person takes notes, asks questions and is there to discuss issues after each visit. Marj’s companion was her husband, Chuck, who was with her for all her appointments.
They were married two years after she was first diagnosed with cancer. He’s stuck with her through subsequent cancer diagnoses, bouts with ischemic colitis, the discovery of ‘spots’ on her optic nerve, lumpectomies, a collapsed lung and a painful mass on her hip. And he continues to support Marj today for all her ongoing therapies.
A love of travel was a common bond when they met and they still try to venture out after the completion of each treatment. Their favorite trips included one to Whistler, Canada (“…where we had great fish!”) and another to Las Vegas (“…where I walked Chuck’s legs off.”). Not all trips were perfect. They both laugh when talking about a road trip along the U.S – Canadian border where they just packed up and took off with little planning. “The scenery was fantastic” Marj says,” but the hotel we picked …not.” Both were laughing as they told this story and wanted to encourage other patients to travel. But they had two important caveats. First, check with your physician before taking off. And second, “Don’t stay in the first hotel you come to …unless you want some really good stories for later.”
Getting through it all
Maintaining a feeling of normalcy was important to Marj during her many medical battles. Although she continued working for the City of Richland during her treatments, she was hesitant to share her health status with colleagues, friends or relatives. “I’m a very private person and felt uncomfortable opening up to everybody about how I was coping or how I felt.“ She did have an outlet, with Chuck always there to help her cope with challenges. But Marj suggests that ‘private people’, like her, consider speaking with counselors or other professionals. “Everyone has to do what they think is right for themselves, but for some reason, I found talking to strangers easier than talking with friends or relatives.”
Asked how she responded to her many close calls and amazing rebounds Marj said “I just wasn’t ready to die yet. I had things to learn and do.” She implemented this philosophy by practicing living one day at a time or, when things got really rough, “just 5 minutes at a time.” Staying active and knowledgeable about the treatment plans also helped her control her future, which she has always wanted to do “on my own terms but with flexibility to change my mind as more information becomes available.” She acknowledges still having fears about any upcoming visit to the doctor and concerns about future therapies. But 25 years after that first diagnosis, Marj says “you can get knocked down but you just have to pick yourself up and keep going.”
FIRST-CLASS TEAM. WORLD-CLASS TREATMENT YOU DESERVE.
By: Chuck DeGooyer, CEO, Tri-Cities Cancer Center
2019 was a year of celebrating 25 years of service in our community and continuing our focus to ensure cancer patients receive the world-class treatment they deserve, right here at home. As I reflect on 2019 and look at 2020 and beyond, there are a number of important updates that I would like to share about your Tri-Cities Cancer Center.
In 2019, we continued to educate and provide services throughout our community focused on the prevention and early detection of cancer. We completed over 1,000 patient screenings in 2019 and will continue to emphasize that effort in 2020. The early detection of lung and colorectal cancer will continue to be our primary focus because they are two cancers often diagnosed in late stage. Our goal is to detect cancer at an early stage to improve patient outcomes and save lives.
On the prevention front, we introduced two new offerings to the community in our 25th Anniversary year as part of our Cancer Crushing Cuisine program. First, we offered cooking classes at Red Mountain Kitchen in downtown Kennewick and partnered with local chef Kyle Thornhill, to bring delicious and healthy, cancer-fighting dishes to the plates of over 90 participants. In September, our Tri-Cities Cancer Center Foundation held an amazing culinary experience called DINE OUT at the Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center in Prosser. Over 250 participants tasted and voted on their favorite cancer-fighting dish prepared by amazing chefs from ten local participating restaurants. Both of these successful programs will continue in 2020.
Our partnership with the Benton Franklin Health District began focusing on increasing HPV vaccination rates in 2019 throughout Benton and Franklin counties and will continue well into the future. We are emphasizing the increase of HPV vaccination of 9 to 14 years olds so that we can prevent HPV-related cancers later in their life.
Our partnership continues with large employers with our Cancer Crushing Executives program, which promotes evidence-based practices to keep employees healthy by targeting the leading causes of cancer. We continue to work hand-in-hand with the University of Washington, the Washington State Department of Health, and the most senior leaders from the region’s largest employers to improve the health and wellness of their employees, who collectively represent 30,000 employees and 100,000 lives when you consider their families.
For the third time, the Tri-Cities Cancer Center was selected by Modern Healthcare as one of the 2019 Best Places to Work in Healthcare. This award is based upon our employees’ responses to national survey questions about their satisfaction working at the Cancer Center. The award means so much to our team who take great pride in the care and service they offer our patients and their families.
To better serve our patients throughout the region, we opened a new satellite office in Hermiston in 2019 to care for patients in Oregon and to work in partnership with physicians at Good Shepherd Medical Center. We are also establishing strong partnerships with physicians at Prosser Memorial Health, Astria Sunnyside Hospital, and St. Mary’s Cancer Center in Walla Walla to better serve their patients and their families.
The Tri-Cities Cancer Center has served our community for over 25 years and we look forward to expanding our partnerships and services throughout the region in 2020 and beyond. We thank our many volunteers and generous donors every day for your support of our efforts to improve the health and wellbeing of our residents. Together, we commit to ensuring that you receive the world-class treatment you deserve, right here at home, from our compassionate first-class team.
We are your Tri-Cities Cancer Center.
Lifestyle Strategies Reduce Cancer Risk
By: Lindsey Josephson, Naturopathic Physician, Tri-Cities Cancer Center
- Don’t smoke – Smoking not only increases the risk of many cancers it also increases risk for heart disease, stroke, COPD, Alzheimer’s disease, and more.
- Get regular exercise – Exercise not only decreases the risk of every chronic disease currently known, but it also improves energy, mood, sleep, sex, decreases pain, and improves every known measure of quality of life.
- Achieve and maintain a healthy weight – When it comes to life long weight management, slow and steady definitely wins the race. Fast-acting fad diets can be tempting, but taking your time to make lasting change will have a much better effect on your health and quality of life.
- Take time daily to de-stress (this doesn’t have to be a lot of time) – In certain Native American tribes tumors were said to be the hardened masses of tears that were never shed. While actual crying probably isn’t necessary, modern science increasingly shows that stress can increase the risk for every chronic disease known. It also really reduces quality of life.
- Get restorative sleep nightly – Sleep is when your body heals, it is also when your mind refreshes itself. Sleep isn’t a luxury it is a necessity.
- Moderate alcohol intake.
- Eat a diet rich in whole natural plant food – Fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, beans, peas, lentils and whole grains all have benefits and you want all the good things nature has to offer.
- Be picky about fats in your diet – Fish and olive are the best fats. Nuts and seeds also have a lot of benefits when eaten in moderation.
- Avoid processed meats and limit red meat to once per week or less – I love steak as much as the next person, it just needs to be an occasional thing and eat it with mushrooms on top and a big salad on the side.
- Get your regular screening tests – We live at a time of marvelous medical capabilities and one great thing about now is that cancer does not have to be fatal if caught early.
Strategies that are specific to prostate cancer risk
- Maintain an epic and safe sex life with consideration for the needs of your chosen partner – That’s right more sex has been shown to reduce the risk of prostate cancer. I do imagine, however, that putting excessive pressure on your partner will probably decrease your life quality and expectancy more than the sex will increase it.
Please visit our website tccancer.org to learn more about our Naturopathic Clinic, how to sign up for one of our group classes, and the many ways natural and supportive therapies can assist you through your cancer journey.
It’s a win/win with a Qualified Charitable Distribution!
By: Elizabeth A. McLaughlin, CFRE, Executive Director, Tri-Cities Cancer Center Foundation
Did you know that you can take advantage of a significant tax benefit if you are 70 ½ years old and facing a required minimum distribution from your IRA? Because of a tax break made permanent by Congress and President Obama in 2015, you can use money from your traditional IRA to make a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCDs) to your favorite non-profit and lower your tax bill.
What is a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD)?
A qualified charitable distribution (QCD) is a distribution from an IRA made directly to an eligible charity, bypassing the owner of the account. Owners of individual retirement accounts who are at least age 70 ½ can contribute some or all of their IRAs to charity.
Can I make a QCD?
- Many IRAs are eligible to make a QCD – however there are some requirements:
- You must be 70½ or older to be eligible to make a QCD.
- QCDs are limited to the amount that would otherwise be taxed as ordinary income. This excludes non-deductible contributions.
- The maximum annual amount that can qualify for a QCD is $100,000. This applies to the sum of QCDs made to one or more charities in a calendar year. (Additional limits may apply if you are filing jointly with a spouse.)
- For a QCD to count towards your current year’s required minimum distribution (RMD), the funds must come out of your IRA by your RMD deadline, which is generally at year end.
Funds distributed directly to you and which you then give to charity do not qualify as a QCD.
Itemization is not required to make a QCD.
A QCD is not subject to withholding. State tax rules may vary, so for guidance, consult a tax advisor.
When making a QCD, you must receive the same type of acknowledgement of the donation that you would need to claim a deduction for a charitable contribution.
A tax advisor can help you determine if both your IRA and charity qualify for QCDs.
Why should I choose the TCCC Foundation as a beneficiary?
In the past 25 years, our Foundation, thanks to generous investors like you, has committed nearly 20 million dollars to supporting world-class cancer care.
These generous investments built this regional resource in 1994, and since then has been a critical element in ensuring that our community has everything we need and deserve to fight cancer.
Your investments in the Tri-Cities Cancer Center Foundation will allow us to do more, to serve more, and to continue the legacy of the finest community cancer center on the west coast. Facing cancer and fighting cancer, every day.
Source: Fidelity Investments.