Friday Frontline: Snowman Challenge Raises Money for Families Affected By Pediatric Cancer, Advocacy Groups Join Together to Create a Cancer Bill of Rights, And More

February 5, 2021
Jessica Skarzynski
Jessica Skarzynski

From a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit taking advantage of recent blizzards to help local families in need to the creation of a “Cancer Bill of Rights”, here’s what’s happening in the cancer landscape this week.

Cancer survivor Carol Ortiz walked out of her last cancer treatment session and re-enlisted in the Navy for another six years while still in the parking lot.

“Being in the Navy is amazing. It's an honorable thing to serve my country and I've loved every minute of doing my 13 years," said Ortiz, a resident of Mesa, Arizona.

Navy Chief Ortiz received an invasive stage 3 breast cancer diagnosis after a serious bike accident during a triathlon in 2019. Ever dedicated to her post, Ortiz continued to work full-time as a recruiter for the Navy while undergoing surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and drug therapy.

After being medically cleared to return, and with her re-enlistment date fast approaching, Ortiz considered the move “a double salute to cancer.”

"To fight stage 3 and then be told you have no evidence of disease, I think part of the attribution of that is being positive the whole time and having the support that I've had, that's what really has gotten me through it," she said.

ThinkBIG Pediatric Cancer Fund creates Snowman Challenge to help raise money for local families affected by pediatric cancer.

With a large chunk of the northeastern United States blanketed under snow this week, the snowman population has undoubtedly increased. But one Pennsylvania-based nonprofit that focuses on providing financial support to families who have been impacted by pediatric cancer is making snowman-building even more enticing with the “ThinkBIG Snowman Challenge”.

Two businesses from the Philadelphia area have offered to donate $10 to the nonprofit for every snowman photo that is shared with the #ThingBigSnowmanChallenge hashtag, up to $5,000.

"We've had a bunch of great submissions from kids that have been coming in. They're getting out and enjoying the snow instead of staying inside and playing video games, so it's been really refreshing," said Mark Stankiewicz, managing director of ThinkBig Pediatric Cancer Fund.

American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) names molecular profiling driving advances in gastrointestinal cancers the Advance of the Year.

The announcement was made this week in Clinical Cancer Advances 2021, an ASCO report on annual progress against cancer that also catalogs a year’s worth of significant research advances, highlights areas of research opportunities, and reinforces the importance of federal funding for cancer research.

“Molecular profiling tools such as next generation sequencing give us the ability to identify specific molecular and genomic-targeted treatments that are likely to benefit an individual patient. Personalized medicine is becoming a reality,” said ASCO Board Chairman Dr. Howard A. "Skip" Burris.

In honor of World Cancer Day on February 4, Cancer Care is Different was launched to raise awareness about the adverse impact that restricted access to leading cancer treatment centers has on patients, particularly in California.

Spearheaded by City of Hope, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, California Chronic Care Coalition and International Myeloma Foundation, the campaign also aims to urge the passage and adoption of a Cancer Bill of Rights in the California Legislature.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 11 (SCR 11) was authored by state Sen. Susan Rubio (D-Baldwin Park) and was introduced in the state Senate Thursday, to ultimately serve the more than 187,000 Californians who are diagnosed with cancer annually.

“For many cancer patients, the best chance of being cured is the early chance at a cure,” Rubio said in a press release about the campaign. “Despite remarkable advances in cancer science creating more effective treatments and cures, too many cancer patients continue to suffer from a lack of access to specialty care. That lack of access is unfortunately even more pronounced among our most vulnerable and disadvantaged communities. The Cancer Patients Bill of Rights recognizes that cancer patients should receive appropriate, timely and equitable access to expert cancer care.”

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