Support leading to more birthdays for cancer survivors

The American Cancer Society's Relay For Life in Gwinnett County is always the best and biggest in the world, and this year was no exception. Not even all the challenges of the economy could keep more than 10,000 Relayers from filling up the Gwinnett Fairgrounds to honor cancer survivors, remember those lost to the disease and raise more than $2 million for the fight against cancer.

What an amazing event, and for that the American Cancer Society is so very thankful.

And there was a special element added this year - a huge birthday celebration for our cancer survivors. More than 1,500 survivors and their caregivers were treated to cake, candles and balloons at the Survivor's Reception. As the "Official Sponsor of Birthdays," the American Cancer Society is working hard to create a world with less cancer and more birthdays for everyone.

There's no doubt we live in a time when choices are much more difficult than they were just a year ago. All of us have felt the impact of the economic downturn, as many companies scaled back or even closed their doors, and so many people took pay cuts or found themselves out of work.

At the American Cancer Society, we appreciate so much that Gwinnett is a community where we made a choice to continue to support the battle against cancer, no matter what the challenges. As a longtime resident of Gwinnett County, I think we did this in part because 1.3 million Americans this year will be diagnosed with cancer - 2,000 of them right here in Gwinnett - and we understand they did not have a choice when their doctor said, "you have cancer." They have to go through the cancer experience and make tough choices about treatment, care and their ultimate survival. We have long been a community that says they don't have to make that journey alone.

Also, thanks to you, we're winning the battle against cancer and creating more cancer survivors. There are now a record 11 million cancer survivors in the United States - remarkable progress when you consider that 50 years ago a diagnosis of cancer was considered a virtual death sentence. We've experienced 15 successive years of declining cancer mortality rates in the United States, which translates into 650,000 more birthdays being celebrated by cancer survivors. Your support is helping to move us toward the day when cancer will be a thing of the past.

One of the new ways the Gwinnett community is helping people survive cancer and celebrate more birthdays is by investing in the Patient Resource Navigation Program at Gwinnett Medical Center. An American Cancer Society "navigator," Jennifer Beck, is onsite at Gwinnett Medical Center to guide cancer patients through their journey and assist with information and problem solving to ensure that they get regular cancer treatment.

Since the PRN program began in Gwinnett last year, Jennifer has served almost 500 cancer patients and their caregivers with nearly 2,000 services - from assistance with transportation to and from treatment to insurance issues. A third of those patients were uninsured, which means that without help most would not have received regular treatment, which would have greatly reduced their chances of becoming a survivor.

What more can you do in the fight against cancer? You can come help us create more birthdays by continuing to support the American Cancer Society and the people in our community who have cancer, who have survived cancer and who will be diagnosed with cancer.

And you don't have to wait until the next Relay season. Just give us a call at 800-227-2345 or at our office here in Gwinnett at 770-814-0123 and help us keep creating more and more birthday parties.

Randy Redner is the American Cancer Society's area manager in Gwinnett. To learn more about ACS, to make a donation or to volunteer, call the Gwinnett office at 770-814-0123 or visit www.cancer.org.