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ASTRO Blog

ASTRO Blog

Final Updates from the 2022 Survivor Circle Grants Awardees based in Texas

By Jennifer Jang, ASTRO Communications

In fall of 2022, two Texas-based organizations, Breast Cancer Resource Center (BCRC) and Thrivewell Cancer Foundation were selected as ASTRO’s Survivor Circle grant winners for the services they provide to cancer patients, their families and caregivers. Each organization received a $10,000 grant in October and were honored at the 64th Annual Meeting in San Antonio. Specifically, the Survivor Circle Grant Program provides financial gifts to two cancer support organizations in the state hosting ASTRO’s Annual Meeting. ASTRO followed up with both organizations to learn more about how the grants provided tangible support in the past year.

Based in San Antonio, ThriveWell Cancer Foundation offers programs and support to improve the quality of life for patients and their families in San Antonio and the Bexar County community. They carry out their mission by providing the following: financial assistance to help offset treatment-related expenses, a complimentary fitness and nutrition program called Diva&Dude, and cancer research funding for local researchers.

ThriveWell used the Survivor Circle award to expand their Patient Assistance Program, which served a record number of patients in their community, 575 to be exact, a 30% increase in patients served over the same time frame the prior year. The grant specifically helped 10 cancer patients pay for their radiation treatment co-payments of up to $1,000 each, allowing the patients to fully comply with their treatment plan. Patient Graciela C. shared, “At a time when I felt my most vulnerable with this disease and everything that comes along with it, it was so comforting to have the support and assistance that ThriveWell provided. I am so grateful to the entire staff and donors who made it possible for me to get through my treatment. I will be forever grateful, and I hope to reciprocate what this foundation has done for me.”

BCRC has provided services for over 28 years in Central Texas. BCRC runs a Patient Navigation program that provides guidance and education to people diagnosed with breast cancer in their community. In addition to their one-on-one patient navigation, BCRC provides support to their clients, including monthly support groups, online forums and their Compass Crew program for health and wellness.

This past year, multiple Compass Crew events were very successful including Healing with Horses and Rowing, and this past spring, they had their infusion room volunteers begin, providing over 580 hours in five infusion centers comforting cancer patients. BCRC held their annual Art Bra Austin event in May and had over 600 attendees cheer on models who are all BCRC clients. They coordinated a retreat for their metastatic clients in August and 33 attended. A survey afterward captured that 92% said it felt good to be with people going through the same thing as they are. BCRC used the Survivor Circle grant to support their patient navigators, individuals who are critical to the BCRC mission of empowering those affected by breast cancer with personalized support and compassion.

The Survivor Circle grant has allowed these two special organizations to multiply their impact. We encourage cancer support organizations in next year’s Annual Meeting region, DC-Maryland-Virginia (DMV), to consider how they too might bolster their support. Applications are open and due in the spring. 

Read about the 2023 California-based Survivor Circle grant recipients. These two organizations received their grants in October at the 2023 ASTRO Annual Meeting in San Diego.

Posted: December 12, 2023 | 0 comments


Updates from 2022 Survivor Circle Grants Awardees

By Jennifer Jang, ASTRO Communications

The Survivor Circle is celebrating its 20th year in recognizing patient organizations. The Survivor Circle Grant is one of ASTRO’s ways of giving back to the cancer community, and grantees are announced during the ASTRO Annual Meeting. Last year at the 64th Annual Meeting in San Antonio, ASTRO had the privilege to provide a $10,000 Survivor Circle Grant for two Texas-based organizations, ThriveWell Cancer Foundation and Breast Cancer Resource Center (BCRC). ASTRO followed up with both organizations to learn more about how the grants provided tangible aid since last fall.

To start, ThriveWell Cancer Foundation, is dedicated to finding the cure for cancer by funding cancer research, providing patient support and offering programs to improve the quality of life for patients and their families. Founded in 2007, ThriveWell furthers their mission by providing the following services in the San Antonio and Bexar County community:

  • Patient assistance: ThriveWell Cancer Foundation provides patients with financial assistance to offset the costs associated with their medical care, as well as treatment related transportation and lodging assistance.
  • Diva&Dude: Diva&Dude is a fitness and nutrition program offering a variety of exercise classes and nutritional counseling for cancer patients and survivors, provided at no charge.
  • Cancer research: ThriveWell Cancer Foundation supports local investigators who conduct cutting-edge research in the fight against cancer.

ThriveWell Cancer Foundation specifically used the Survivor Circle grant to expand their Patient Assistance Program, which now serves record numbers of patients in their community. The grant has been used to help 10 cancer patients pay for their radiation treatment co-payments. ThriveWell paid those patients’ co-payments, up to $1,000 each, which allowed them to fully comply with their treatment plan.

The Breast Cancer Resource Center (BCRC) was the other Survivor Circle grantee. Most recently, BCRC shared that their Patient Navigation program is as strong as ever in providing guidance and education to people diagnosed with breast cancer in central Texas. BCRC provides support to clients with monthly support groups, online forums and their Compass Crew program for health and wellness. Because clients have become more comfortable with virtual gatherings, that has been their most recent format, but they plan to offer in-person meetings as well in hopes of clients being more comfortable with that format. Last November, BCRC hosted a retreat for their metastatic clients and 18 attended, with activities like jewelry making, aromatherapy and body movement. It was a time for them to celebrate each other, have fun and also visit with the patient navigators.

BCRC used the Survivor Circle grant to support their patient navigators, who are critical to the mission of empowering those affected by breast cancer with personalized support and compassion.

BCRC has been providing services for over 28 years in Central Texas. In 2022, they served over 1,200 clients. They provided over 7,600 hours of patient navigation and resolved 94.5% of all clients’ needs. Over their 28 years, they have supported thousands of women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Unfortunately, some clients have a recurrence or progression of their breast cancer. At any point, whether it has been one year or 10 years, they can access BCRC’s services whenever they need them. BCRC’s impact is to ensure any woman or man who has been diagnosed with breast cancer has the support to navigate through their initial diagnosis, treatment and into survivorship specifically equipped with the knowledge and care they need to lead the life they want for as long as they can.

ThriveWell Cancer Foundation and BCRC have used their funds to enhance their impact. This October, ASTRO will award two $12,500 grants to Breast Cancer Angels and Cancer Support Community Los Angeles during the Annual Meeting in San Diego as we celebrate 20 years of the grant program! The program is an opportunity for support organizations from the host state of California to advance their initiatives and receive recognition in the ASTRO community. For questions about the grant, contact Beth Bukata.

Posted: July 12, 2023 | 0 comments


Final Updates from 2021 Survivor Circle Grants Awardees

By Jennifer Jang, ASTRO Communications

Two Chicago-area organizations, Cancer Support Center and LivingWell Cancer Resource Center, were selected as ASTRO’s 2021 Survivor Circle grant winners for the services they provide to cancer patients, their families and caregivers. Each organization received a $10,000 grant in late 2021 and were honored at the 63rd Annual Meeting in Chicago. Specifically, the Survivor Circle Grant Program provides financial gifts to two cancer support organizations in the state hosting ASTRO’s Annual Meeting. ASTRO followed up with both organizations to learn more about how the grants provided tangible aid in the past year.

The Cancer Support Center (CSC), located in Chicago, is a community-based non-profit organization with two facilities in Chicago’s Southland neighborhoods of Homewood and Mokena. CSC serves anyone seeking oncology care and focuses on a health equity initiative providing services to communities of color with high cancer morbidity rates. CSC uses the Five Point Model of Cancer Care, which comprises Counseling/Stress Management, Education, Nutrition, Fitness and Body Image. “Navigators,” as they call their providers, address these points at the first meeting, when the first time “participants,” as they call their clients, come in the door.

Pre-COVID-19, when a cancer patient came to CSC, they immediately met with a program navigator who began the patient support process. Since COVID however, CSC determined they could achieve a significant level of care through intentional videos. CSC thus chose to use the Survivor Circle Grant to develop a series of introductory videos focusing on how supportive care can improve their participants’ lives.

Three videos were created: “What to Expect at The Cancer Support Center,” “Why Supportive Care is so Valuable,” and “What Supportive Oncology Care is and How it Can Help.” These videos are housed on CSC’s YouTube page, as well as embedded in their website at strategic points of entry for interested participants. Opportunities are abundant as CSC continues to find new ways to share the videos and spread the message of CSC and the importance of psychosocial oncology care. Challenges included staff ease in front of the camera, ensuring that scripts encompassed the wide range of topics associated with each area and needing to be engaging and concise.

Funds were spent on staff time (Executive Director, Marketing Manager, Marketing Coordinator for development of the video content and marketing; Executive Director, Clinical Program Director, Program Manager, Program Navigator and two staff therapists to rehearse and shoot the video content) and Videographer.

This project has made it easier than ever for CSC to share who they are, what they do and why it is important. They have already utilized the video content on their website, social media platforms and in presentations with external partners. From introductory presentations about CSC to hospitals and businesses, to hospital staff sharing with patients — the reach is vast. CSC had heard that it is difficult for participants to think about coming to CSC, and the video series is helpful to bridge the gap of conveying what to expect. For example, hospital staff shares the video with patients or upper management to communicate CSC as a resource or to explain the importance of psychosocial care in general. The full potential of the videos’ reach is still being discovered, and they anticipate using them for years to come to encourage higher participation and referrals, and also to incorporate psychosocial care into the experience of all cancer patients.

Similarly, the LivingWell Cancer Resource Center, the other recipient of the 2021 Survivor Circle Grant, expanded their breadth of reach using the new funding, but in a more physical way. Upon receiving the funding, their social work team mobilized to support patients needing transportation to and from appointments. The grant removed a barrier to patient care in the most practical way, as many LivingWell participants tend to rely on rides from family, friends or caregivers. When rides are not available, patients often have no choice but to cancel their appointments, delaying much-needed care.

The Survivor Circle Grant has helped LivingWell Cancer Resource Center reinforce their efforts to provide a foundational component of their purpose, increasing access to care. From November 2021 through October 2022, LivingWell funded a total of 175 rides, totaling almost $7,000. The average ride distance was 12 miles, with the furthest distance traveled as 49 miles, to various Northwestern Medicine Cancer Centers.

Alongside the grant, LivingWell bolstered their efforts with other partnerships, including the American Cancer Society, which is piloting its Road to Recovery program, using community volunteers to provide rides in DuPage and Kane counties. However, the limited number of available drivers has been an obstacle, as the demand for rides far outpaces the availability of drivers. The program has not yet been piloted for the DeKalb community, and because of these challenges, ASTRO funding has been instrumental in providing access for patients to receive care. The social work team works with patients to determine alternative options to support visits for patients’ long-term medical needs, including investigating family, friends and community resources to provide rides along with assessing the patient’s health plan to see if transportation might be included in their coverage. If not, the team often works with the patients to change to a plan that includes this coverage without sacrificing medical coverage for care.

Through the year, LivingWell’s social work team made every effort to exhaust every other possible resource before considering Uber Health as an option. To offset the cost of inflation and increasing gas prices, LivingWell will use remaining funds to purchase $25 gas cards, which will help 130 patients through the remainder of 2022.

The Cancer Support Center and LivingWell Cancer Resource Center have used their funds to multiply their impact. Similarly, we encourage cancer support organizations in next year’s Annual Meeting state, California, to consider how they too might strengthen their support. Applications will open up in January 2023 and be due in the spring. For questions, contact Beth Bukata.

Read about the 2022 Texas-based Survivor Circle grant recipients.

Posted: November 23, 2022 | 0 comments


Updates from 2021 Survivor Circle Grants Awardees

By Jennifer Jang, ASTRO Communications

Two Chicago-area organizations, Cancer Support Center and LivingWell Cancer Resource Center, were selected as ASTRO’s 2021 Survivor Circle grant winners for the services they provide to cancer patients, their families and caregivers. Each organization received a $10,000 grant late last year and were honored at the 63rd Annual Meeting in Chicago. Specifically, the Survivor Circle Grant Program provides financial gifts to two cancer support organizations in the state hosting ASTRO’s Annual Meeting. ASTRO followed up with both organizations to learn more about how the grants provided tangible aid since last fall.

The Cancer Support Center (CSC), located in Chicago, is a community-based non-profit organization with two facilities in Chicago’s Southland neighborhoods of Homewood and Mokena. CSC serves anyone seeking oncology care and focuses on a health equity initiative providing services to communities of color with high cancer morbidity rates. According to Executive Director Sue Armato, CSC uses the Five Point Model of Cancer Care, which comprises Counseling/Stress Management, Education, Nutrition, Fitness and Body Image. “Navigators,” as they call their providers, address these points at the first meeting, when the first time “participants,” as they call their clients, come in the door.

Pre-COVID-19, when a cancer patient came to CSC, they immediately met with a program navigator who began the patient support process. “We thought in person was best,” Ms. Armato said. But since COVID, they discovered that “We actually can achieve the same level of care through well-made and intentional videos.” To respond to this need, CSC chose to use the grant to develop a series of introductory videos focusing on how supportive care can improve their participants’ lives.

To date, CSC now has ready the "story" content outline for each of the three videos, identified who will be filmed and developed standard slide content. They have secured a videographer/filmmaker who understands CSC’s important work and has done previous work for them successfully. The videos will be produced this month, with the goal of having them ready for distribution and sharing by June 5, National Cancer Survivors Day. CSC has spent only a quarter of the funds thus far, limited to the development of video content and deposit for videographer. Once the remainder of the funds is spent on video development and release, CSC anticipates vast impact on future clients. After all, the videos’ reach will widen the opportunity to explain the need for supportive oncology and why it is such an important part of any cancer journey. The videos will explore how CSC supports cancer patients and what one can expect when they seek supports and resources, which will help to demystify the supportive oncology process.

Expanding their reach, CSC will share these videos on their website and with eight hospital partners along with oncology centers throughout their service area. CSC is also developing a partnership with the local community college where they will develop programs for supportive oncology care, sharing these videos as part of that effort. CSC looks forward to showing these videos ultimately to help newly diagnosed individuals, so that they may know the importance of supportive care and, for those who have been on a longer cancer journey, that CSC is a resource for them too.

Similarly, the LivingWell Cancer Resource Center, the other recipient of the 2021 Survivor Circle Grant, has also expanded their breadth of reach using the new funding, but in a more physical way. Upon receiving the funding, their social work team mobilized to support patients needing transportation to and from appointments. The grant removed a barrier to patient care in the most practical way, as many LivingWell participants tend to rely on rides from family, friends or caregivers, often scheduling appointments based on when they will have reliable rides. When rides are not available, patients often have no choice but to cancel their appointments, delaying much-needed care.

From mid-November 2021 through March 2022, LivingWell provided 51 rides, totaling $1,165. The average mileage per ride was 12.5 miles, with the longest distance being 32 miles. The majority of rides was associated with Northwestern Medicine Warrenville Cancer Center (86%), while a smaller portion was for centers in Geneva and DeKalb. To ensure grant funding was used with discretion, LivingWell social workers coordinated the rides.

The Survivor Circle Grant has helped LivingWell Cancer Resource Center reinforce their efforts to provide a foundational component of their purpose, increasing access to care. Alongside the grant, LivingWell has bolstered their efforts with other partnerships, including the American Cancer Society, which is piloting its Road to Recovery program, using community volunteers to provide rides in DuPage and Kane counties. Limitations to the pilot include the requirements that both volunteers and patients must be based in DuPage or Kane counties to participate. To compensate for this limitation, the funds from ASTRO have helped to support Uber Health, funding transportation for patients when free rides were unavailable otherwise. The grant has enabled the social workers to ensure patients are able to keep their appointments. However, the challenge of securing Uber rides remains for the DeKalb community due to a lack of available drivers. To address this issue, LivingWell has identified three local vendors, Non-Emergency Wheelchair Transport, New Era Non-Medical Transportation and Hail a Taxi, to provide future assistance for patient transportation needs. These new vendors will help provide available drivers for any future patient need and allow for the remaining funds of the grant to be used in a meaningful way.

The Cancer Support Center and LivingWell Cancer Resource Center Community have used their funds to multiply their impact. Similarly, we encourage cancer support organizations in this year’s Annual Meeting state, Texas, to consider how they too might strengthen their support. To be considered, please apply by this Friday, May 13. For questions, contact Beth Bukata.

Posted: May 11, 2022 | 0 comments