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Catering to 'In-Between' Cancer Patients

Volunteer Voice - Winter 2011

Cancer180 Branches Out to Rio Grande Valley

By Lauren Schoenemann

With the creation of a new social gathering site in the Rio Grande Valley, the Anderson Network extended its Cancer180 outreach to the young adult community there in 2011.

Marisa Mir (front row, far left), program
coordinator for the Anderson Network, 
joins adolescent and young adult cancer
patients for a recent Cancer180 Rio 
Grande Valley networking event.

Approximately 65 adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer patients, survivors, family members, friends and physicians attended the kickoff event at The University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg, Texas.

Cancer180 was created by the Anderson Network to provide social and networking opportunities that cater to the unique situation and needs of this “in-between” cancer population.

“These patients are too old for the Highlights magazines in the waiting rooms and too young to talk about ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ with older patients,” says Marisa Mir, program coordinator for the Anderson Network. “It’s important for them to know that there’s someone else out there who knows what they’re going through and that they’re not alone.”

A second support site Mir says the Rio Grande Valley was selected for Cancer180’s expansion effort because the area is largely underserved and offers limited resources to patients, their families and caregivers living in the region.

Modeled after the Houston group, the Rio Grande Valley chapter of Cancer180 cultivates a casual, social environment that’s nonmedical and nonthreatening in which AYA patients can interact naturally, Mir says.

Five survivor volunteers in the Rio Grande Valley served as the local host committee for the workshop event. Social mixers will be held in the Rio Grande Valley every two months.

The kickoff event was a precursor to the Survivorship Symposium that took place in the same location, where Cancer180 volunteers focused on offering three key services:

  • the opportunity for patients to socialize and network;
  • instructional materials for patients, physicians and family members; and
  • local resources for patients and caregivers.

Breakout sessions were also held throughout the day to address cancer-related issues that AYA patients identified as important.

For more information about Cancer180, check the program’s website and Facebook page.

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center