Providing free services for all impacted by cancer.
Providing free services for all impacted by cancer.
Not long after that, she heard about Cancer Support Community Northern Arizona, the only source of free wigs for cancer patients north of Phoenix.
She might have visited Cancer Support Community Northern Arizona in search of a wig, but she found much more, she said. The organization quickly became a trusted source for information about her cancer, the place where she went for weekly Strength and Balance classes, and a place to engage in therapeutic Expressive Arts classes.
It also connected her to a new circle of friends who understood what she was going through because they were on their own cancer journeys.
“I learned that you just need to be positive and get the support you need – because it’s there,” she said.
With affiliates throughout the country, Cancer Support Community is dedicated to ensuring that all people impacted by cancer are empowered by knowledge, strengthened by action, and sustained by community.
In 2022 alone, Cancer Support Community Northern Arizona hosted 219 in-person events, including educational seminars, healthy lifestyle classes, support groups and social gatherings. All of the programs are free to participants and provide the support services that are often difficult to find in rural areas like Northern Arizona, said Board Member Sandi Ernst Perez.
“That is the magic of a non-profit like Cancer Support Community Arizona in Flagstaff,” she said. “We help people with any type of cancer, and their family and friends. They’ll have a support group of people facing similar decisions and challenges. Ultimately, we’re creating a community where everyone feels accepted, cared for and strengthened – right where we live.”
In any given month, the programs, which are all evidence-based and evaluated for efficacy in helping cancer patients, can range from hypnotherapy for pain management, to exercise sessions that help prevent cancer-related fatigue, to workshops discussing the latest clinical trials and treatments for specific cancers.
Even the group’s fundraisers are a form of therapeutic support. Take the inaugural Paws-4-Hope celebration that will be Saturday, April 15 at Bushmaster Park, for example. The event was chosen not only because a dog-centered day at the park promised to be fun, said Executive Director
Cindy Payne, but because of the proven therapeutic benefits of dogs.
“National Institutes of Health studies show that even small interactions with dogs cause the human brain to produce oxytocin, the ‘cuddle chemical,’” she said. “Oxytocin increases feelings of relaxation, trust and empathy, while reducing stress and anxiety. Who doesn’t need more of that?”
Since Cancer Support Community Northern Arizona opened in October 2021, it has fostered a close relationship with Northern Arizona University. Last year, the two organizations partnered to create Cancer Support Community University, which provides proactive cancer prevention education as well as support services for young adults who have a cancer diagnosis or are supporting a friend or family member with cancer.
“It’s unique and it’s fast becoming a model for the rest of the country,” said Payne, who noted the pilot program was funded through a grant from the Cancer Support Community national headquarters. “And we’re proud that it started right here in Flagstaff.”
NAU students also play a large role in the operations of Cancer Support Community Northern Arizona, with 14 students interning in the office at 914 N. San Francisco St. The interns greet visitors, help participants register for programs, organize events and provide company and support to those undergoing treatment at nearby medical facilities.
Payne said the organization wants to continue expanding services, specifically by adding embedded “hospital navigators,” professionals working in hospitals and oncological offices who could provide wrap-around services and bring both emotional support and practical assistance to augment the care cancer patients receive from their medical team.
That will take some investment by donors, who fuel most of Cancer Support Community Arizona’s programs, said Rich Bowen, a member of the Board of Directors.
“Dealing with cancer and cancer treatment is many times a very painful, stressful, fearful and anxiety-provoking experience,” added Bowen, who lost his wife, Marisa, last year to cancer. “The reason I’m such a big fan and supporter of Cancer Support Community Northern Arizona is that they are the organization that comes alongside cancer patients and healthcare professionals to provide that most important and badly needed support system: practical assistance, friendship and caring.” FBN
By Cindy May, FBN
For information about Cancer Support Community Northern Arizona, including the upcoming Paws-4-Hope dog walking event in Bushmaster Park, please visit cscaz.org/northernarizona.
Courtesy Photo: Cancer Support Community Northern Arizona Executive Director Cindy Payne (sitting, bottom right), celebrated Mother’s Day with program participants during last year’s mother-daughter tea.
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