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Cancer survivors have much to celebrate

National Cancer Survivors Day

The Oregon Cancer Foundation believes survivorship should be celebrated. And on Sunday, June 4, a special event will be held in Springfield to honor cancer survivors in Lane County. Survivors including Bonnie Settera.

If you ask Bonnie about living with cancer, she is quick to tell you she is blessed and thankful—blessed that she is responding well to treatment, and thankful to those who have offered her help since her diagnosis.

Bonnie’s cancer journey began nine years ago when she noticed changes in her right eye. “My granddaughter said I looked like a koi fish, because my eye was so bulgy and red,” she says.

Bonnie was diagnosed with an orbital pseudotumor, a swelling of tissue behind the eye in an area called the orbit that acts much like a tumor but is not cancerous.

She received radiation treatments at Willamette Valley Cancer Institute and Research Center, and the condition appeared to go away. Four years later, in 2012, Bonnie’s symptoms returned and tests determined that she had a rare form of cancer called neuroendocrine carcinoid that began in her colon, then metastasized to her right eye.

Bonnie underwent surgery to remove the cancer in her colon and since diagnosis, she has been receiving a type of chemotherapy that requires a shot in her hip once a month. This week, she will receive her 62nd injection.

“There is no remission from this cancer and no cure. This is something I will have to manage as long as the treatment keeps working. It’s not fun, but I’m doing well,” Bonnie says. Although, she admits, she gets nervous each time her next six-month check-up approaches.

“I do a lot of praying, and I’m very fortunate. Although the tumor lays on my optic nerve, my vision has remained unaffected. I’m thankful for that.”

Now retired, Bonnie spends a great deal of her time each week volunteering as a senior companion at Sweet Briar Villa, an assisted living and memory care facility in Springfield.

“I’m a people person, and I couldn’t just sit home and worry and wonder about what’s going to happen with my cancer,” she says. “But I can help others by putting a smile on their faces.”

Despite her positive outlook, Bonnie says her cancer has taken a toll financially, but she’s found support from Oregon Cancer Foundation (OCF).

Through OCF’s Financial Assistance Program, Bonnie was able to receive new eye glasses when her Medicare plan would not cover it. OCF has also provided her with prepaid minutes for her cell phone, so she can make her doctor appointments.

“The help that Oregon Cancer Foundation offers is immediate, and they understand what I’m going through. It’s such a blessing to have this organization in our local community,” Bonnie says.

On Sunday, June 4, in honor of National Cancer Survivors Day, Oregon Cancer Foundation is hosting a special event to celebrate Bonnie and other cancer survivors in the community. The event, which will be held from 12:00-2:00 p.m. at Lively Park in Springfield, is an opportunity for cancer survivors to connect with other survivors, celebrate milestones and acknowledge the contributions of family, friends and healthcare providers who have supported them along the way.

The event is free to attend. Learn more here.


Volunteer spotlight: Couple finds harmony in music and supporting cancer patients

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Photo credit: Athena Delene Photography

Since they were kids, Jackie and Jason Cowsill have each been drawn to music, so it’s fitting that music is what first brought them together.

“One night, I was playing at the old Jo Federigo’s in Eugene. I was performing a Beatles song and Jackie walked up and said, ‘I want to sing with you’,” Jason recalls.

“Yeah, I basically crashed his show,” Jackie says. “He was singing the John Lennon part and I knew the Paul McCartney part, so I jumped up on stage and told him I wanted to harmonize with him. Once he finally agreed to sing with me, it was kind of magical,” she laughs. “But when the song ended I just thanked him, threw $10 in his tip jar and disappeared. I didn’t even give him my name!”

Jackie and Jason managed to reconnect a few months later, started performing together regularly, and they eventually married in 2010. They now perform as the duo Jackie Jae and Jason Cowsill, singing what they call ‘harmony-driven hits from the past, present and future’: encompassing a wide range of cover songs, from Dean Martin to Adele, as well as their own original songs, which they release under the pseudonym “Troupe Carnivàle,” that fall under the genre of Dark Americana.

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Photo credit: Jayme & Russ Photographers

They are part of the Cowsill family’s musical legacy. Jason’s father, Bob, performed alongside his siblings and his mother in the 1960s, as part of the internationally acclaimed band The Cowsills, which was the inspiration for the 1970s television show The Partridge Family.

Giving back
Jason and Jackie were first introduced to Oregon Cancer Foundation (OCF) a couple years ago when Jason joined some of his co-workers as a member of Team Endure, a group that brings together people of all different fitness levels to train for endurance events, while raising money for OCF.

“When people are going through cancer treatment, they often can’t work and their income suffers,” Jackie says. “Cancer affects so many aspects of a person’s life and Oregon Cancer Foundation’s Financial Assistance Program is there to help.”

“Giving back and helping others has always been an important part of what music is all about,” Jason adds. “You don’t have to be famous to support people in your own backyard.”

The couple performs about twice a week at a variety of venues and events, from wineries to wedding receptions. Having both been personally affected by friends and family dealing with cancer, they are passionate about using their music to lend a hand. They’ve performed at several events for Oregon Cancer Foundation, including last year’s Grow Your Mo Community Celebration and Ninkasi’s Pints for a Cause. This year, they will be entertaining attendees at OCF’s National Cancer Survivors Day Celebration on Sunday, June 4 at Lively Park in Springfield.

“When we play music to support Oregon Cancer Foundation, we encourage people to stay longer, and perhaps become a little more invested. Maybe they don’t consciously attribute that to us, but we help create a fun vibe that connects them,” Jason says.

“I feel incredibly blessed to have the gift and ability to make music,” says Jackie. “I get to do it with the person I love most in the world and help enrich the lives of others. I can’t ask for anything more.”

 


Local tea company offers cancer patients a cup of comfort

Yogi Tea Donation

Oregon Cancer Foundation is thankful for the opportunity to partner with local businesses in ways that make the cancer journey easier for patients.

Recently, when Yogi Tea Company learned its ginger teas, which support digestion and calm nausea, were being served to patients at Willamette Valley Cancer Institute, it donated a supply of tea through Oregon Cancer Foundation.

“The folks at Yogi were very gracious and very happy to make the donation, and we were thrilled to be able to make the connection and let patients know that there’s lots of folks in the community that are pulling for them,” says OCF executive director Amy Johnston.

A cup of comfort
Patients undergoing chemotherapy often spend hours in the infusion room at Willamette Valley Cancer Institute. And something as simple as a cup of tea can offer comfort.

“When patients are receiving their infusion, the room can feel cool to them,” says WVCI oncology nurse Rebecca Gores. “We do offer them heated blankets, but tea is another option to help them warm up.”

For patient Ruby Glazier, who has been receiving chemotherapy since November, a cup of Yogi tea eases the nausea she often feels after treatment.

“It’s just so helpful and it makes me not afraid to eat, because I don’t eat when I get that awful feeling,” she says.

Supporting the local community
Yogi Tea was first developed and introduced to the local community decades ago by Yogi Bhajan, a teacher of holistic living. Today, Yogi Tea is available in 60 varieties, many of which are made using five traditional Ayurvedic spices: cardamom seed, cinnamon bark, clove bud, ginger root and black pepper. And Yogi Bhajan’s philosophy of helping others remains one of Yogi Tea Company’s core values.

“What he believed is a business exists to serve. If the business is not doing something on purpose, if it’s not giving back, if it’s not making a difference, why should it exist?” says Sat Bir S. Khalsa, Yogi Tea Company’s Director of Global Community Relations.

“Our teas are meant to be able to help people, and in whatever form that is we’re happy to make sure that we can be a part of that experience for people.”

Oregon Cancer Foundation is entirely funded by donations from individuals and businesses, but it’s also the donation of products and services—things like tea and comfort measures—that go a long way toward helping patients. Our sincerest thanks to Yogi Tea Company for its generosity.


Team Endure recruiting new members

Team Endure

 

Are you considering ways to get in shape in the new year? Want to make 2017 the year that you can finally check off “triathlon” on your bucket list?

Joining Team Endure is the first step in making it happen, and you’ll be supporting Oregon Cancer Foundation at the same time.

The team gives people with different fitness levels an opportunity to come together and experience something extraordinary—to push themselves out of their comfort zone and test both their physical and mental endurance, as well as their will and determination.

“This team is smartly coached. It doesn’t seem possible that I should be able to do a triathlon, but the training goals have been achievable,” says Dan Johnston, who competed in his first triathlon with Team Endure last June. “Without the support from this incredible team, I don’t think I’d have had the gumption to do it on my own.”

Team Endure trains year-round, participating in events like century bike rides, triathlons and half marathons, but its primary focus is the Pacific Crest Weekend Sports Festival, which will be held June 23-25 in Sunriver, Oregon. Team members compete in the Olympic Distance triathlon, consisting of a .9-mile swim, a 28-mile bike ride and a 6.2-mile run, or can choose the Half Ironman triathlon—a 1.2-mile swim, a 58-mile bike ride and a 13.1-mile run.

Team members don’t take on this challenge just for their own benefit. They do it to lend a hand, raise awareness and support patients undergoing cancer treatment in Lane County. Since 2014, Team Endure has raised over $50,000 to support Oregon Cancer Foundation’s Financial Assistance program.

Most team members have a personal connection to cancer—a family member, friend or co-worker who’s had the disease—and they understand that people diagnosed with cancer often find themselves in a financially tough place.

“Patients often have to make really hard life choices, like whether to buy groceries or figure out how to pay the rent,” says OCF’s executive director Amy Johnston. “And those are situations where we can step in, and we can provide them with funding that will help them, to pay their rent, to pay their utility bill or to pay for their groceries.”

“Cancer touches everyone in some way,” says Jackie Jae Cowsill, who got involved with Team Endure after her husband, Jason, joined in 2015. “I’ve lost six family members and a beloved high school teacher to cancer, and I’ve watched other friends and family members successfully beat it.” As administrative support, Jackie provides information and tools to help team members meet both their physical and fundraising goals. In addition, as the musical duo Jackie Jae and Jason Cowsill, Jackie and her husband have volunteered their time to perform at other OCF fundraising events.

“Aside from the great cause we’re supporting, everyone involved with Team Endure has huge hearts and gives of themselves generously. It’s life enhancing just to be surrounded by such positive spirits. I think anyone joining the team will feel the same way,” Jackie says.

Team Endure will begin training in late January, meeting for runs on Saturday mornings. As the season progresses, they will add opportunities to swim and bike as they build strength and endurance.

“Many people join the team with their only physical goal being, ‘I just want to finish,'” Jackie says. “You don’t have to worry about holding anyone back or letting anyone down—each person has their own goals and strives to do their personal best. It doesn’t matter how that compares to anyone else. The whole team is there supporting you and cheering you on. You’re running your own race, but you’re never alone.”

If you’re interested in joining Team Endure, please email info@TeamEndure.org. To make a donation, click here.


Cancer patient who lost belongings in fire encourages others to pay it forward

 

After serving more than 30 years as an officer with the Eugene Police Department, Lisa Barrong was looking forward to retirement. But just about 10 months before leaving her position, Lisa learned she had breast cancer. Having received clean mammogram results just days before, the diagnosis came as a complete surprise.

“I was reaching my arm across my body to grab something and I felt a twinge of pain,” Lisa recalls. That’s when she discovered a lump in her breast about the size of a pea. Tests showed Lisa had an extremely aggressive form of triple negative breast cancer and it had to be treated quickly.

“Hearing the words breast cancer—it’s hard to explain that moment. It’s something you’re not prepared for. It’s was shock, it’s ‘OK, what are we going to do about this?'” Lisa says.

A natural problem solver, Lisa threw herself into the fight, doing everything she could to beat the cancer. She began with more than 5 months of chemotherapy, then a double mastectomy and reconstruction, followed by 33 radiation treatments.

But in the midst of her recovery, tragedy struck. The family’s home burned down.

“The blessing is no one was in the house. We were actually at my son’s baseball game, and we were watching the fire from the baseball field, not knowing it was our own home.”

When Lisa and her husband received a call from a neighbor, they rushed home. But all they could do was helplessly watch as their belongings went up in flames.

Lisa’s fighting spirit wavered when insurance claims dragged on and coverage was delayed. As she continued to battle her cancer, the family was living in a hotel and trying to regain their financial footing.

“We were floundering, trying to figure out how we’re going to put one foot in front of the other, and I got a call from a representative of the Oregon Cancer Foundation. She said they heard about the fire and they wanted to help,” Lisa says. “I didn’t know what to say. I’m not even sure I was aware of the foundation at that point, but it was a warm heart at a really hard time.”

Lisa has yet to find a silver lining in the fire that displaced her family, but she continues to discover unexpected blessings in her cancer diagnosis.

“I’ve met some amazing people who are fighting their own cancer battles, and it’s inspired me to take this really rough experience and figure out how I can use to help others.”

One of the ways Lisa is helping is by spreading awareness about Oregon Cancer Foundation and encouraging people to make a donation. She is so impressed by the foundation’s work, not only its Financial Assistance Program, but also its Survivorship Series that she and her husband are now donors.

“No matter what your life is like or what your experiences have been, nobody’s ready for cancer. Nobody is ready for their house to burn down. To know there is a foundation out there to help people, no matter where they are at in their lives, is such an amazing thing. We really want to be a part of the amazing work they’re doing.”

When you make a tax-deductible donation to Oregon Cancer Foundation, your contribution stays right in Lane County and will make a difference today. Your gift not only helps patients financially, but it also gives hope and says someone cares.

Donations can be made directly online or by downloading our donation form and mailing your contribution to: PO Box 11004, Eugene, Oregon 97440.

In early 2017, patients will be able to apply for financial assistance on our website. In the meantime, email inquiries to amy@oregoncancerfoundation.org.


Local performers take on new role to raise awareness and funds

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Natanael and Justin at rehearsal at the Ballet Fantastique Studio into Week 2 of Grow Your Mo.

Natanael Leal and Justin Feimster have played many roles over the course of their careers as actors and dancers, but neither have ever played a role quite like the one of “Mo Bro.”

These two passionate performers with big hearts are dancers with local nonprofit Ballet Fantastique. When we approached them about participating in our annual Grow Your Mo campaign to raise awareness and funds for Oregon Cancer Foundation, they agreed enthusiastically. Justin lost his grandfather to cancer and says this is a way to honor his memory.

“I also have a personal friend and coworker at the stagehand union who received help from Oregon Cancer Foundation,” Justin says. “I want to do something to help pay that kindness forward.”

Natanael chose to join the November fundraising campaign to honor his aunt who was diagnosed with cancer several years ago and currently lives in his home country of Brazil. He says his involvement in Grow Your Mo is surely making her smile.

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Natanael Leal in Pride and Prejudice-a Parisian Jazz Ballet. Photo credit: Stephanie Urso

“She is a strong, independent woman who never wants people to be sad. She taught me that just because you have cancer doesn’t mean you give up,” he says. “When I lived in Brazil, she always wanted to spend time with me because I would distract her from her diagnosis with a movie or a book, or we would discuss whatever was going on in the world. I tried to do anything I could to make her day better.”

These two performers have made a career of making people’s days better through their art, and in turn, it has instilled in them an empathy for others.

“Anytime you take storytelling seriously you have to put yourself in other people’s shoes, in their place, and attempt to honestly feel the emotions you’re trying to portray so that your character is sincere. You begin to understand the emotions and stories of other people through the study of them, and in even a small way are able to look past yourself and get a glimpse of their life,” Justin explains.

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Justin Feimster in The Odyssey. Photography credit: Greg Burns

Both men are happy to be involved in Grow Your Mo, and hope to raise as much awareness and funds as they can.

“I hope that the simple act of allowing my facial hair to grow lets local cancer patients know that people love and care about them, especially in the most difficult times, and that they are not alone. We have their back,” says Justin.

Justin and Natanael would like to note that their fellow dancers at Ballet Fantastique wanted to participate, but they were the only two who could actually grow facial hair. “And I don’t think our director would be happy if the female dancers let their underarm or leg hair grow out before a show,” Justin adds.

You can support the BFan Boys or any or all of this year’s Grow Your Mo teams at growyourmo.org through November 30. All proceeds benefit Oregon Cancer Foundation.