Warrior Sisterhood

By Kristina Lord, Warrior Sisterhood Board Member

Four Tri-City cancer survivors didn’t expect so many women to seek support when they formed Warrior Sisterhood more than three years ago.

They simply wanted to create a safe, supportive place for other young women fighting cancer.

More than 80 women are now members of the group that no one wants to join.

Warrior Sisterhood’s goal is to empower local women with cancer or a cancer-related diagnosis. There’s no age requirement to join, but many women in the group are trying to balance a job, family and busy life along with their endless medical appointments and fears about a recurrence.

“I need to be around people who have been there. It’s nice to pulse-check with them every once in a while,” said Shannon Wray-Martinez of Pasco, who battled back from leukemia.

The women meet monthly, rotating between the Tri-Cities Cancer Center and other venues in the community. In the past year, the group painted in watercolors in Richland, paddleboarded in the Columbia River in Kennewick and met over wine at Gordon Bros. Winery in Pasco. “Warrior Sisterhood is now a thriving program of
the Tri-Cities Cancer Center and works hard to provide monthly support group meetings, additional community activities and small financial grants for our Warrior Sisters who qualify,” said Misty Ovens of Richland, president and co-founder of the group. Ovens was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago.

As with any successful organization, the work it takes to run Warrior Sisterhood grew with its success, Ovens said. “It became clear that a more formal and organized leadership structure
was necessary to sustain the growth and success of the group,” she said.

The founders discussed forming an executive board last year. It’s made up of a mix of those who have faced down cancer and others who haven’t but are committed to the cause, like Kristin Schuster of Richland.

She helped to organize the group’s fall fundraiser, Pink the Parkway, as a way to support her friend Pam Frick of Richland, one of the co-founders of the group, and a two-time breast cancer survivor.

“What started out as supporting her became so much more,” said Schuster, board secretary. “I found myself surrounded by friends diagnosed with cancer. I am inspired by the strength and drive of the leaders of Warrior Sisterhood. I am so excited to see how the group is growing and all the plans we have for the future to help support local women in our community fighting cancer.”

Board co-treasurer Amy Strege of Kennewick lost her best friend to breast cancer in 2007 — her mom. “She could have benefitted greatly from a group like Warrior Sisterhood while fighting her battle,” she said.

Jennifer Martin of Kennewick, the board’s fundraising chair, said she was inspired by Oven’s personal struggles and the work that she has done to support cancer patients. “Misty is an inspiring person and her passion for the mission of the Warrior Sisterhood is infectious,” she said.

Rounding out the new board are Frick, vice president; Sarah Stephenson of West Richland, co-treasurer and co-membership chair; Kristina Lord, co-membership chair; and Marilyn Elkins of West Richland, community outreach chair. The two other co-founders are Julie Kempf and Christie Jo Ray, both of Richland.

Board members participated in a January retreat in which the mission statement was finalized, board member roles were defined, goals for 2016 were established and bylaws sketched out.

“When I joined the group, everyone reached out to me. Right from the get-go, I felt comfortable. I feel like the group has done so much for me and I want to give back. I get huge emotional support here. These women get it,” said Stephenson, a thyroid and breast cancer survivor.

For more information, find the group on Facebook and Twitter @WarriorSisters1. Email mistyovens@gmail.com or call/text 509-554-0075.

First Live Site in Nation!

Tri-Cities Cancer Center has demonstrated compliance with the standards of the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) Accreditation Program for Excellence (APEx®), effective February 1st, 2016, for a four-year accreditation of their radiation oncology services. APEx is an independent radiation oncology practice accreditation program developed by ASTRO based on a comprehensive set of sixteen evidence-based standards of radiation oncology practice. The sixteen standards are focused on five pillars of patient care: 1) the process of care; 2) the radiation oncology team; 3) safety; 4) quality management; and 5) patient-centered care.

“Tri-Cities Cancer Center is excited to be the first cancer treatment facility in the nation to receive APEx accreditation from the premier radiation oncology society in the world.” said Dr. Sue Mandell, Medical Director of the Tri-Cities Cancer Center. “Evaluating our processes in relation to ASTRO’s high standards, including standards for safety and quality, validates our practices and recognizes the efforts of our radiation oncology team to deliver patient-centered radiation oncology care.”

“ASTRO is proud to recognize Tri-Cities Cancer Center for achieving APEx accreditation,” said ASTRO chair Bruce D. Minsky, MD, FASTRO. “Tri-Cities Cancer Center has demonstrated a commitment to providing their patients with safe, high-quality radiation therapy services.”

Accreditation through APEx is a rigorous, voluntary, multi-step process that can take up to one year to complete. Each center seeking APEx accreditation must have its policies and procedures evaluated using objective, verifiable expectations for performance in radiation oncology. It must demonstrate its commitment to high standards of safety and quality in the practice of radiation oncology and that it practices patient-centered care by promoting effective communication, coordinating treatment, and engaging patients and their families as partners in care.

APEx has a distinctive program structure that includes both a self-assessment process and a facility visit conducted by a medical physicist and a radiation oncologist, radiation therapist, nurse, dosimetrist, nurse practitioner, physician assistant or practice administrator. APEx integrates Maintenance of Certification (MOC) templates that promote value and efficiency for physicians and final evaluation reports that link standards and performance to quality improvement resources. APEx applicants also have access to a library of quality improvement practice management tools to facilitate a culture of safety. APEx reflects competencies and practices identified and endorsed in the 2012 ASTRO publication Safety is No Accident: A Framework for Quality Radiation Oncology and Care.

The Tri-Cities Cancer Center, a partnership of Kadlec Regional Medical Center, Lourdes Health Network, Trios Health and the Tri-Cities Community, opened its doors in 1994 as a freestanding non-profit cancer treatment facility. To learn more about the Tri-Cities Cancer Center and how you might become involved, visit us online at www.tccancer.org.  

ASTRO is the premier radiation oncology society in the world, with more than 10,000 members who are physicians, nurses, biologists, physicists, radiation therapists, dosimetrists and other health care professionals who specialize in treating patients with radiation therapies. As the leading organization in radiation oncology, the Society is dedicated to improving patient care through professional education and training, support for clinical practice and health policy standards, advancement of science and research, and advocacy. ASTRO publishes three medical journals, International Journal of Radiation Oncology • Biology • Physics (www.redjournal.org), Practical Radiation Oncology (www.practicalradonc.org) and Advances in Radiation Oncology (www.advancesradonc.org); developed and maintains an extensive patient website, RT Answers (http://www.rtanswers.org); and created the Radiation Oncology Institute (www.roinstitute.org), a nonprofit foundation to support research and education efforts around the world that enhance and confirm the critical role of radiation therapy in improving cancer treatment. To learn more about ASTRO, visit www.astro.org.

New Brain Cancer Treatment Option

The Tri-Cities Cancer Center is proud to announce that it has a new treatment option available for glioblastoma (GBM) patients. The treatment is delivered via a device called Optune by NovocureTM. Optune is FDA approved and has shown to increase survival rates with no serious side effects for GBM patients. The Tri-Cities Cancer Center is the first cancer treatment facility on the east side of Washington State to offer this groundbreaking treatment option.

GBM is the most common and aggressive form of primary brain cancer in the United States. With only modest improvements made in treatment options over the past 25 years, it is an area of high unmet medical need. GBM affects an estimated 12,500 Americans each year. This disease is one of the deadliest forms of cancer. The overall survival for GBM patients is measured in months, not years.

Optune uses technology called Tumor Treating Fields (TTFields). TTFields are frequencyspecific, low-intensity alternating electric fields that interrupt cancer cell structures during division and may cause cancer cells to die. Optune is a portable, noninvasive medical device designed for use by patients at home. Treatment with Optune generally spares and does not harm healthy, normal nondividing brain cells.

Both Dr. Guy Jones and Dr. Juno Choe, radiation oncologists with the Tri-Cities Cancer Center, are licensed to prescribe this treatment.

The Tri-Cities Cancer Center, a partnership of Kadlec Regional Medical Center, Lourdes Health Network, Trios Health and the Tri-Cities Community, opened its doors in 1994 as a freestanding non-profit cancer treatment facility.

RT: Not Just For Cancer

Say what? Seriously? Yes, I thought it sounded crazy too when I first heard about it, however the idea behind using cancer therapies for non-cancerous medical conditions has been in widespread use for decades. Chemotherapies, for instance, are commonly used to treat a variety of autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus as well as skin diseases such as psoriasis. Like cancer, these diseases involve the overproduction of cells and low doses of certain chemotherapies can be used to stop their proliferation.

Similarly, localized and low doses of radiation therapy (RT) are also used to combat other diseases with abnormal growth patterns, and in some cases, it has proven remarkably effective. In the continuous effort to strive for improvements in medicine, development of better drugs and procedures led to the use of RT being phased out for many indications. However, as technology has advanced in recent years, the use of RT for several of these diseases has seen a resurgence. There is now a large and growing body of literature to support the use of modern RT in the treatment of non-cancerous diseases particularly where other treatments have proven ineffective.

A more complete list of these diseases are listed on our website, but to name a few: Dupuytren’s contracture, plantar fasciitis (bony heel spurs), and keloids have all been shown to respond very well to small doses of RT with patients reporting very few side effects. Other disorders, such as arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) and trigeminal neuralgia, can be effectively treated with one to five large doses of radiation to a very small area. These treatments all require remarkable accuracy that is now available with the Varian Edge technology at your Tri-Cities Cancer Center.

Chances are, you either have one of these diseases yourself or know someone who does. So a big question is “why haven’t I heard about radiation therapy as a treatment option?” Well, often it is simply because other physicians don’t know much about RT. Most physicians aren’t trained in the delivery of RT or even the science behind it, so they may not even be aware that it’s an option. Surprisingly, there isn’t a single medical school in the country that requires a RT rotation and only 1% of medical school graduates go into the field. As a result, other physicians may know little more than what the lay public knows about radiation and radiation therapy.

So “what’s the benefit of RT?”
Well, in the case of Dupuytren’s Contracture, patients are often told they should “come back when contracture develops.” RT is often never discussed even though the International Dupuytren’s Society recommends RT in the early stages of the

disease to prevent contracture from ever occurring and decrease the likelihood that patients will need corrective procedures or surgeries in the future. For patients that already have contracture, a procedure to correct this contracture can be performed and radiation therapy can be given post-operatively to prevent it from coming back. Both approaches are covered by most insurance.

Ok, so “what are the side effects?”
This may be the most important question. When it comes to RT for these benign disorders, the fear of treatment is often worse than the treatment itself. Many would be surprised to know that radiation therapy is highly localized, absolutely painless, and takes only minutes to deliver. Unlike cancer therapy, which may require eight weeks of treatment or longer, treatment for benign diseases are typically completed in a week or less and require no more than 20 minutes per day. The doses that we deliver are so low that patients typically don’t even see skin changes. In fact, the majority of patients literally wouldn’t have known they received RT if we hadn’t told them.

Well “why has it taken so long to catch on?”
For two big reasons: we were waiting for technology to “catch up.” Delivering radiation therapy requires tremendous accuracy and control and we simply didn’t have the means to do it for many years. Secondly, there were theoretical concerns that radiation could result in delayed effects which might occur months to years after treatment. However, after many years of study, these concerns have not been validated. For instance, a recent publication from a recognized expert in the field reported that “no single case of cancer caused by radiation has ever been reported after the use of RT for Ledderhose, Dupuytren’s, keloids, hypertrophic scars, or other benign hyperproliferative disorders.” Although I spend 90% of my time treating cancer, I do also find these benign diseases highly rewarding to treat. Some patients that have been suffering with pain or disability for years can see rapid improvement in just a few weeks which can greatly enhance their quality of life. I see this as one more way that I can support my hometown community.

Planned Giving

The Tri-Cities Cancer Center Foundation supports the needs of the Cancer Center and is focused on supporting local cancer patients and their families, while providing services to build a healthier community through free early detection cancer screenings and education. Contributions to the Foundation come in many forms, through special events, annual contributions, and gifts to recognize cancer survivors or in memory of loved ones. Many gifts are also given to the Foundation which helps continue to provide these much needed services and programs to our community for many years to come. These gifts are referred to as planned giving. Typically, a planned gift is one that will provide charitable benefit at the donor’s death. Donors may receive a charitable deduction immediately, but the Foundation will not receive any funds for its benefit until the donor passes away. Planned giving describes a wide variety of giving vehicles that allow the donors to give to the Foundation during their lifetime and/or after their death, while meeting their current income needs and providing for their heirs.

Planned gifts can allow the donor to:

  • Make a personally significant gift to the Tri-Cities Cancer Center Foundation
  • Save on gift and estate taxes
  • Reduce or avoid capital gains taxes
  • Pass assets on to family members at reduced tax costs
  • Possibility of receiving income for life

Planned gifts are often thought of as ‘leaving a legacy’ because many are created to make an impact for future generations. It is surprisingly easy to arrange a planned gift. Though more sophisticated gifts will require more care, many methods are quite straightforward. An estate planning professional can help you achieve your goals and ensure an accurate and smooth process. The Tri-Cities Cancer Center Foundation can provide you with valuable information to share with your estate planning professional regarding planned giving. For more information about how you create a lasting legacy for cancer patients in our community, please contact Elizabeth McLaughlin, Foundation Director at 509.737.3374 or via email at

Free Tobacco Cessation Classes

The Tri-Cities Cancer Center will host two free Tobacco Cessation classes on 1/15 and 1/27. This program will help participants identify triggers, come up with ways to beat them, discuss the use of stress reduction and nicotine replacement therapy. First time participants will be offered the choice of nicotine replacement patches or nicotine gum (while supplies last).

Reservations for these classes can be made online at www.tccancer.org (see our Event Calendar page to register online) or by calling (509) 737-3427. Class size is limited. Individuals may register up until the day of the class.

“Tobacco use has so many adverse health effects. The Cancer Center’s Tobacco Cessation Program is a valuable tool for local healthcare providers who are encouraging their patients to quit smoking,” states Dr. Juno Choe, Radiation Oncologist at the Cancer Center.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the health effects from cigarette smoking account for nearly one of every five deaths, each year in the United States. “If nobody smoked, one of every three cancer deaths would not happen. Smoking causes an estimated 90% of all lung cancer deaths in men and women. More women die from lung cancer each year than from breast cancer.”

The Tri-Cities Cancer Center, a partnership of Kadlec Regional Medical Center, Lourdes Health Network, Trios Health and the Tri-Cities Community, opened its doors in 1994 as a freestanding non-profit cancer treatment facility. To learn more about the Tri-Cities Cancer Center and how you might become involved, visit us online at www.tccancer.org.

Free Community Presentation

Radiation Therapy for Gynecological Malignancies

Radiation therapy has been used for a variety of cancers of women’s reproductive tract for close to 100 years. The most significant advances have been made in the past 20 years to improve effectiveness and reduce side effects. Dr. Choe will explain the various ways of delivering curative radiation to gynecological malignancies that cannot be treated with surgery alone.

Please RSVP by January 11th. Lunch will be provided with RSVP. Call 737-3427 to register or visit www.tccancer.org and click on our calendar of events page to register online.

The Tri-Cities Cancer Center is able to offer programs like this, at no cost, thanks to community support through the Tri-Cities Cancer Center Foundation. Donations to the Tri-Cities Cancer Center Foundation stay local and provide valuable non-reimbursed cancer programs and services for patients, their families, and the community.

The Tri-Cities Cancer Center, a partnership of Kadlec Regional Medical Center, Lourdes Health Network, Trios Health and the Tri-Cities Community, opened its doors in 1994 as a freestanding non-profit cancer treatment facility. To learn more about the Tri-Cities Cancer Center and how you might become involved, visit us online at www.tccancer.org.