By Brennon Dixson
Signal Staff Writer
Every year, the “Think Pink!” campaign reminds everyone of the importance of regular check-ups and screenings for help in the fight against treatable forms of cancers.
The idea began about 23 years ago for the month of October, but support and awareness have turned the campaign and outreach into much more, visible every year in the Santa Clarita Valley around the fall, with events like Bras for a Cause, the Relay for Life and Ride for a Cure.
In fact, Ride for a Cure raised a record amount last year — more than $14,000 — which was donated to the Sheila R. Veloz Breast Center at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, one of the communities’ most important resources in preventative care.
While those events won’t be nearly the same, if at all, this year due to COVID-19, the nonprofit organizations that provide for those fighting cancers still need help in order to survive and provide. And awareness remains a critical component because the odds of someone surviving a battle increase tremendously the earlier it’s detected.
Every year, the American Cancer Society’s largest fundraiser, Relay For Life, features the Luminaria ceremony, which honors cancer patients and survivors as well as memorializing those who have lost their lives to cancer. This year’s Luminaria ceremony will take a different format.
The ACS inaugural Drive-Through Luminaria is being hosted Sunday, Oct. 11, from 5-8 p.m. at the Kia and Mazda dealerships.
“From the safety of their vehicles, participants can view the decorated and lit luminaria bags lining the route and drive through as many times as they wish,” according to a release from the event’s organizers.
Additional details, including a map of the drive-through route, can be found at the “more details” page at SCVrelay.org. The dealerships are located at 24095 Creekside Road in Valencia.
There are a lot of local resources available where you can get any help you might need.
In addition to the latest advances in treatments, interviews with SCV health care providers repeatedly touched on a theme: A host of providers have partnered to provide a complete spectrum of care right here in our backyard.
Family physician Dr. Christian Raigosa discussed the importance of screenings and regular check-ins with your physician.
“As long as you’re on top of (your health) and you’re getting your screenings done,” Raigosa said, “you improve the likelihood of staying disease-free or picking up a diagnosis of cancer early so that you can get treated and increase the odds of recovering,”
Lisa Ortega, Henry Mayo’s director of cancer services, concurred: “Screenings are important because the earlier we find something (like cancer), the better the outcome.”
Ortega added breast and prostate cancer have a 98% 5-year survival rate if they are found early enough.
“It’s estimated by 2020, that almost 1-in-3 people will get cancer in their lifetime, but it’s become much more of a chronic disease,” Ortega said, “so it no longer means you’re going to die because we can catch it earlier, and there’s more types of targeted therapies.”
The staff at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital utilize the Sheila R. Veloz Breast Center for mammograms, but doctors and primary care physicians also have the ability to perform many others, according to Ortega. Even with the large availability of places to be screened for cancer in the area, it’s key for local residents to know how to check moles and understand any abnormal findings.
“It’s really important to know what’s normal on your body and what’s not so when something changes, you can do something about it and get checked out,” Ortega said, before speaking to the resources that are available to patients who are diagnosed.
“I think people should know there are resources out there to help them through the process,” Ortega said. “They’re not alone.”
Finding the right doctor who can provide adequate care is only part of the battle against cancer, according to local health care professionals. After a cancer diagnosis, patients and caregivers are usually left with feelings of fear, doubt and hopelessness, which is why it’s important for families to find a place where they feel they belong and can share their experiences.
“Sometimes it’s just as hard on the caregivers as it is on the patients — or harder, because they have other things to take care of,” Ortegs said. “This is why we host a Caregivers Resource Fair in September along with support groups for patients and caregivers alike.”
Henry Mayo isn’t the only place to receive assistance though, as Circle of Hope also has a number of resources available to local residents, including a wellness center that is open to anybody who is a cancer patient or in recovery.
“At the wellness center, we offer — free of charge — wellness classes, therapies and we have all sorts of massage classes, yoga, lectures and many other types of spiritual, education or fitness classes for people in any stage of recovery,” said Tricia Rasplicka, an office administrator at Circle of Hope.
Along with the wellness center, patients can also use Circle of Hope staff to find financial resources that can assist in lowering their treatment costs.
“We can offer financial resources to those who qualify,” according to Rasplicka, which can be used to help with anything relating to cancer costs.
“We don’t help pay any other bills,” Rasplicka said, “but we can help pay for surgery, medication and other cancer-related costs.”