Women In History Month
It’s only appropriate this month for Bag It Cancer to reflect on women impacting the area of cancer survivorship. For years, cancer survivorship on a grand scale was only a hope and dream. It took pioneers like Ellen Stovall and Susan Leigh in the 1980s to take the ever-increasing numbers of survivor statistics and bring them to the attention of our national leaders and the medical community through the launching of the National Coalition of Cancer Survivorship (NCCS). NCCS was the impetus behind establishing working definitions, rising national attention, and affecting legislation to change laws and funding to support this growing population. Without their passion, courage, and tenacity, the Survivorship Movement would not have developed and gained the influence it did.
As a cancer survivor in 2000, Susan Leigh and I began a friendship and relationship in Tucson, Arizona that continues to this day. It was with her urging, along with others, that helped me create the concept for Bag It–a much needed resource to help the ever-increasing numbers of survivors. The goal was to encourage cancer patients to give themselves a voice in their care. Susan’s mentoring allowed me a greater understanding of the survivorship issues on a national as well as on a local and regional scale.
There are women like Dr. Patricia Ganz who began researching Quality of Life (QOL) issues and concerns of survivors that had been long-ignored. In a phone call with me, she approved Bag It’s inclusion of her QOL checklist to our cancer treatment summary and care plan. This allowed us to expand the scope of the then American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) template to include QOL concerns, as well as late- and long-term effects of cancer treatment.
It was women who encouraged me to embark on what appeared to me to be a very scary effort, a nonprofit organization. A group of women I had been hanging out with since our children were in playgroup together encouraged me to take the deep dive. My own mother, diagnosed with cancer two years before me, understood what a challenge it would be with a family and teaching career. She supported me all along the way. It was oncology nurses that helped me choose resources to include in Bag It, and just as importantly, women in cancer support groups. Many would come to my home every six weeks to help put together our binders, order National Cancer Institute (NCI) materials and help with fundraising efforts to keep it all afloat.
There would be no Bag It (and probably most nonprofit organizations) without the passionate support of women. They staff most nonprofits and make up the majority of volunteers in all types of capacities.
Women have and will continue to push the agenda of Quality Survivorship for all. Kudos to all of us that carry the torch and those that keep it lit.