The month of June is designated as National Cancer Survivor Month. In the US alone, according to the American Cancer Society, there are roughly 17 million cancer survivors and it is estimated to exceed 22.1 million by 2030. The National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship (NCCS) pioneered the definition of survivor as being any person diagnosed with cancer, from the time of initial diagnosis until his or her death.
Cancer survivors are extraordinarily resilient people. For example, I want to acknowledge one local survivor today. A. Lee Morris is a devoted husband, father, grandfather, brother, friend; talented musician; avid motorcyclist and a cancer survivor since 2012. Since 2013, Morris, has coordinated the Meigs County Cancer Initiative, Inc. (MCCI’s) largest fund-raiser: the Ann Morris Cancer Awareness Benefit and Poker Run in memory of his mother who died of cancer.
Mr. Morris, who initially benefited from MCCI’s Transportation Assistance Program upon a throat cancer diagnosis, states in this year’s event pledge letter: “MCCI helped me in my fight against cancer and I am proud to play a part in helping this organization bring cancer awareness to Meigs County.” Since 2013, Mr. Morris and his team (consisting mainly of family members and friends) have raised approximately $23,000.00 on behalf of MCCI. He personally designed the event’s logo and sells commemorative T-shirts as well as pillows and bandanas to make additional monies for MCCI. Mr. Morris and his wife, Mindy, personally invest a significant amount of their own resources to make the event a success.
Earlier this spring and in the midst of planning for the 2021 Ann Morris Cancer Awareness Benefit and Poker Run, Mr. Morris received another cancer diagnosis for which he currently is undergoing treatment. Despite days of tiredness and not feeling well, Mr. Morris continues to forge ahead with efforts including, but not limited to soliciting donations; selling raffle tickets; mapping out the route; promotion and engaging partners to assist with this year’s event, which is scheduled for Sept. 12th with registration taking place from 11AM-1PM at the Rutland Civic Center 337 Main St, Rutland, OH. For more information or to support the event visit https://www.facebook.com/annmorriscancerawarenesspokerrun.
MCCI uses funds raised via the Ann Morris Cancer Awareness Benefit and Poker Run to support Meigs County cancer patients via its Transportation Assistance Program. We know that access to care and lack of transportation (which are two of the five 2020 Meigs County Community Health Assessment Priorities) affect cancer survivorship for reasons of distance, lack of area specialists/primary care physicians and cost. Meigs County presently is working to establish a public transportation system, but has no practicing cancer specialists. As a result, most local cancer survivors have to travel to Gallipolis, Athens, Columbus, Chillicothe or outside of Ohio for treatment.
The Meigs County Health Dept. (MCHD) collaborates with MCCI to execute its Transportation Assistance Program for Meigs County cancer survivors who are travelling to cancer-related appointments. Fuel vouchers and fast-food gift cards are offered on a monthly basis (contingent upon the availability of funds) to cancer survivors who complete the application process. Vouchers are only redeemable at service stations situated within Meigs County and fast-food gift cards are purchased from Meigs restaurants keeping donated funds in the local economy. For more information, contact me at 7409926626 (Monday through Friday) or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In 2020, MCCI disseminated gas vouchers and food cards to Meigs County Cancer patients travelling to medical appointments as follows:
January-28 patients; 55 vouchers; 22 food cards;
February-23 patients; 42 vouchers; 18 food cards;
March-23 patients; 42 vouchers; 16 food cards;
April-16 patients; 30 vouchers; 12 food cards;
May-11 patients; 21 vouchers; 9 food cards;
June-16 patients; 29 vouchers; 11 food cards;
July-15 patients; 24 vouchers; 10 food cards;
August-12 patients; 20 vouchers; 10 food cards;
September-19 patients; 33 vouchers; 12 food cards;
October-12 patients; 22 vouchers; 9 food cards;
November-12 patients; 23 vouchers; 9 food cards;
December-21 patients; 33 vouchers; 10 food cards.
MCCI was establishment in 1993 to improve cancer awareness and control in Appalachia. MCCI focuses on increasing awareness, providing education on ways to prevent cancer, promoting cancer prevention and the importance of early detection of cancer for long-term survival. MCCI’s grassroots efforts help residents to become more aware of when and where to seek screening, how to navigate through the increasingly complex health care system, and where to turn for community resources. MCCI cares about the community by: working together with various agencies such as the MCHD to address cancer health disparities in Meigs County; providing cancer education programs for the community that focus on prevention, early detection, treatment and survivorship; addressing needs and gaps in medical coverage for members of the community as they arise; providing education to combat high cancer rates; providing resources to individuals and families with a cancer diagnosis. Remaining meetings dates for 2021 include Aug. 2, Oct. 4 and Dec. 6 at noon. New members are welcome. Contact me for more information.
In conclusion, the anonymous quote “No one is more cherished in this world than someone who lightens the burden of another” certainly applies to many people in our communities, but MCCI and the MCHD especially consider Mr. Morris to be a local champion and salute him for his continued efforts and selfless passion to support fellow survivors along their cancer journeys.
Courtney C. Midkiff, BSC, is administrator for the Meigs County Health Department and secretary for the Meigs County Cancer Initiative.