Town council on Monday night received an activities update from Anthony Kadikoff and Bridgette Parker of the Northern Cancer Research Foundation (NCRF), including news that cancer specialist Dr. Dimitrio Verigidis will give a public presentation here Oct. 1.
The chief of oncology at the Regional Cancer Care Centre in Thunder Bay will speak at 7 p.m. at La Place Rendez-Vous.
“Basically, he’ll give an update on cancer in Canada. He’s going to talk about some of the progress that’s been made in the last year in Northwestern Ontario and Canada,” said Parker, senior development officer of the NCRF.
“It’s a great presentation. I hope you can all make it,” she added. “There’s no charge, and we’d love to see you there.”
“He’s very, very interesting,” echoed Kadikoff, a Fort Frances resident who sits on the NCRF’s board of directors. “One of the best you can get in the field of cancer care.
“He’ll answer all your questions,” Kadikoff added, noting Dr. Verigidis is among the “top-notch” and “highly-educated professionals” working for cancer care in Northwestern Ontario.
Parker also gave council an explanation of what the NCRF is and what it does.
“We’re the only cancer fundraising organization that is dedicated to 100 percent Northwestern Ontario cancer care,” she noted.
“We’re fairly young as far as organizations go. We were founded in 1994 by a group of local residents who wanted to see monies raised for cancer services stay in Northwestern Ontario,” she explained.
The NCRF only has five full-time staff, but is supported by a group of 200 volunteers, including a board of directors.
Raising money through donations and fundraising events, the NCRF funds cancer research, patient care, and education and awareness.
“Our cancer centre in Thunder Bay, about 12 years ago, decided that bringing all our cancer patients in Northwestern Ontario to Thunder Bay for cancer services might not be the best way to do things,” said Parker.
“So they’ve really focused on bringing cancer care close to home for patients.”
In conjunction with the Regional Cancer Care Centre in Thunder Bay, the NCRF works with 13 regional hospitals throughout Northwestern Ontario to bring as much cancer care to people’s home communities as possible.
Most patients can receive their chemotherapy treatments in their home communities.
“That keeps you with your support network, sleeping in your own bed, having ‘Scruffy’ beside you when you get home,” Parker remarked. “These things are huge for cancer patients.
“When a person finds out they have cancer, it’s horribly traumatic,” she noted. “And then to find out you’re going to get ripped from everything you know and plunked into the centre of Thunder Bay and you need to undergo all these treatments—it was earth-shattering for a lot of people.
“So the cancer centre identified this and decided it was time to bring as much cancer care to home communities as possible,” she added.
Unfortunately, because the NCRF can’t put a $3-million radiation machine in every community, or have a mobile one, patients still have to go to Thunder Bay for radiation therapy.
But when they do have to come to Thunder Bay, they have the TBayTel Tamarack House, which is the regional patient accommodation facility located right next to the hospital, where the entire top floor is dedicated to cancer care.
“The thing that really makes Tamarack House work is it’s all people from the region. They’re all from small towns,” said Parker.
“Me being from a small town, I understand how small towns work. Everyone knows each other’s business and you’re OK with that. You’re all there for each other, you’re all looking out for each other.”
“I think that’s what makes Tamarack House special. You become your own small community up there,” she added. “Those 20 patients and their companions become their own social network. They’re all going through the same things, their spouses are going through the same thing.
“And they can really lean on each other and share experiences with each other.”
Patient care not only includes TBayTel Tamarack House, but also regional grants. The NCRF provides funding to the 13 local communities that have cancer treatment facilities in their home town.
In the last two years, NCRF has provided just over $17,000 to Riverside Health Care Facilities, Inc. for its cancer program.
“We’ve helped them to purchase blanket warmers, I.V. cuffs, computer stations, a lot of the equipment they need to provide care close to home for patients,” noted Parker.
Last year, the NCRF granted $1.34 million to area cancer programs. As of October, 2006, it has put $9.1 million into improving cancer services in Northwestern Ontario.
On top of patient care, NCRF does cancer research, whether it’s biological, psycho-social, or physics-based.
As well, the foundation of funding and research that has existed in Thunder Bay for the last 13 years through the NCRF really has laid the groundwork for the new Molecular Medicine Research Centre, which was announced for Thunder Bay earlier this summer.
“Not only is this facility going to bring huge innovations to Northwestern Ontario, but it’s also going to create a lot of positions, a lot of jobs—200 direct jobs and about 600 spin-off jobs,” said Parker.
“So that’s going to be huge for the region.”
Education and awareness also is a very important component to what the NCRF does “because we’d much rather ensure cancer never happens instead of having to treat cancer and research cancer,” said Parker.
She noted campaigns the public may remember include “The Take It Like A Man” and “Prostate Man” prostate exam campaign, and “The Bottom Line” colorectal cancer one.
“Both of these campaigns have won national marketing awards and received a lot of attention right across Ontario,” said Parker, adding other cancer centre in southern Ontario are looking to adopt those same campaigns.
Parker stressed the NCRF is not government funded but is supported solely through donations from the region.
“We do truly have one of the best cancer centre in Ontario. We have some of the lowest wait times. We have fabulous doctors, We have fabulous equipment,” she enthused.
“We really are truly lucky in Northwestern Ontario to have the cancer centre and the cancer program, and that’s a direct result of all of the support we receive from the residents of our region,” she said.