On June 29 at the Greenstar Space, the Cancer Resource Center (CRC) of the Finger Lakes hosted a Cancer Moonshot Summit in collaboration with Vice President Biden’s initiative to double the rate of progress toward a cure for cancer.
Over 40 people attended, including those who currently receive support from the CRC services, cancer survivors and their families, and town officials.
The Cancer Moonshot is a White House effort that aims to increase the amount and types of treatment in the Unites States by conducting 10 years worth of research in five years. On June 29, many cities across the United States held programs like the CRC’s Moonshot Summit in solidarity with Biden’s summit, which was held in Washington D.C.
Biden’s son Beau, Delaware’s 46-year-old former attorney general, died in 2015 after a two-year battle with brain cancer. This sparked the Vice President’s drive to find a cure.
The same urgency was present during the CRC’s local event, but it went beyond the need for research action. Specifically, CRC director Bob Riter wanted to advise local leaders on cancer prevention and care.
“It’s really important to attach a local face to cancer. There are so many developments in cancer research and very impressive big picture ideas, but we also want to emphasize the importance of support within the local community,” Riter said.
Riter said the Cancer Moonshot Summit is a way for the community to come together and support an issue that affects everyone.
“I give credit to Vice President Biden for heading this up. We’re very happy to be the local contact for this. Now there are about 14 million survivors of cancer here in the U.S., and there are probably about 3,000 survivors in Tompkins County. That’s a lot of people,” he said.
Survivors and those currently dealing with cancer, as well as family and friends, told stories about their experiences with the disease and expressed their hopes for the future at the summit. Many wanted a holistic approach to care that included not only research, but also an overall integration of physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.
Several survivors, current cancer patients, and their family members spoke of the need for a cure, but others, including Jerry Dietz, a CRC board member whose wife died in 2012 from ovarian cancer, said there was a need for emotional support. Dietz spoke of the impact cancer had had on his life and how the resource center greatly helped him.
“You learn the language of cancer. You learn words you never wanted to know. You become a part of a club that you never wanted to become a part of. You learn about insurance and doctors and how your time can get chewed up and how tired you become,” Dietz said. “But that’s why the Cancer Resource Center is so important. We are so blessed.”
The Cancer Resource Center is non-profit that provides support services for cancer patients, survivors and their families. This support ranges from individual and group sessions to wellness activities, from yoga to wigs for patients undergoing chemotherapy. The center also conducts free cancer screenings through the Cancer Services Program of Cortland and Tompkins Counties.
The Cancer Moonshot Summit was designed to act as a catalyst for cancer research, Riter said, and this research is conducted locally at Cornell University. CRC hosts one of the only programs in the nation that allows graduate and postgraduate students from a university to educate those affected by cancer about the research they are doing.
“It’s really important to expose the students to the human side of cancer. They’re in labs all day long doing really important research but they are not exposed to individuals going through treatments,” Riter said.
The program not only benefits the students, but the patients as well.
“Lots of people with cancer want to know what is going on with their bodies and want to prevent it. The more we understand the underlying biology of cancer, the better we can target treatments that are more effective and have fewer side effects.”•
The CRC is located on W. State Street and is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information visit crfl.net.