Friday Frontline: Texas Cancer Center is First in the Country to Provide COVID-19 Vaccines to Patients with Cancer, Philadelphia Nonprofit Delivers Free Groceries to Local Residents with Cancer, and More

From the first COVID-19 vaccine doses becoming available for patients and their caregivers at a cancer center in Texas to community police officers delivering food to families impacted by cancer in Philadelphia, here’s what’s happening in the cancer landscape this week.

A cancer center in Texas becomes the first in the country to provide COVID-19 vaccines for patients with cancer.

The Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders in Fort Worth, Texas, is a comprehensive cancer center serving 12,000 patients annually. It began distributing the Moderna vaccine to patients and their caregivers on March 16 via a drive-through system. The announcement came after the cancer center had been working with the State of Texas and Tarrant County public health officials for several weeks to secure vaccine doses.

"We appreciate the deep concern for cancer patients our state and county public health have shown by working with us to ensure vulnerable cancer patients are prioritized to receive a COVID-19 vaccine," said Barry Russo, the cancer center’s CEO, in a news release. "We're excited to be the first cancer center in the country to be able to offer patients access to these vaccines."

Sabine Schmitz, former BBC “Top Gear” host and popular German racing driver, has died of cancer at the age of 51.

Schmitz, who was often referred to as the “Queen of the Nürburgring,” announced last year that she had been undergoing treatment for cancer since 2017. Known for her positivity, humor and racing skills, she grew up near the famous Nürburgring track in Germany. The news of her death prompted a wave of tributes from the BBC and others in the motor racing world.

“The ‘Queen of the Nürburgring’, Sabine radiated positivity, always wore her cheeky smile no matter how hard things got – and was a force of nature for women drivers in the motoring world,” said “Top Gear” executive producer, Clare Pizey, in an interview. “Like everyone else who knew her, we will truly miss her – Sabine really was one of a kind. Our thoughts are with her partner Klaus who was always by her side and who we welcomed to Dunsfold many times, and her family in Germany.”

Itzel, a 10-year-old cancer survivor from Milwaukee, interviewed Aaron Rodgers as part of a Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation fundraiser.

Itzel, a Green Bay Packers fan, got the opportunity to interview her favorite quarterback through the “50 Faces of Cancer” fundraiser for the Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation. The conversation between Itzel and Rodgers premiered online on March 11.

Itzel received her final round of chemotherapy in February after receiving treatment for leukemia for over two years and rang the bell to celebrate becoming cancer free at Children’s Wisconsin on March 16.

“I feel more free now that I’m done with that, because that was really tough to go through,” Itzel told WISN-TV.

Oncologist Dr. James Flint and his patient, Colin Jackson, walked 26.2 miles together – virtually – to fulfill a promise made during Jackson’s cancer treatment.

After Jackson, 39, underwent treatment and major surgery for chondrosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, he was eager to get back into running marathons. The cancer had destroyed his right hip and the upper part of his right femur, so he underwent surgery to remove the affected muscles, reconstruct his hip and hip joint and rebuild his leg bone.

As an avid runner, Jackson expressed his goal of running another marathon to Flint, an orthopedic surgeon and oncologist at Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health. Flint was initially concerned that Jackson would suffer an injury, but instead made him a promise.

“He said ‘can I run again?’ and I said I don’t recommend it ... but Colin was motivated,” Flint said in an interview. “When he brought up running a marathon again, I said, half jokingly, ‘I’m OK if you walk a marathon, and if you do it, I’ll do it with you.’”

Jackson held Flint to his word, and the two walked the course from different locations to abide by COVID-19 guidelines. During the 12-plus hour journey on Jan. 17, they exchanged phone calls, text messages and photos with each other, chronicling their experiences.

“Dr. Flint has made such a difference this entire journey,” Jackson told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “I can’t put it into words because it means so much.”

A Philadelphia nonprofit, Legacy of Hope, has been delivering free groceries to local residents with cancer.

Throughout the pandemic, the nonprofit’s Emergency Patient Support Network has been able to provide free food to families through the collaboration of community police officers, local hospitals and Shop Rite stores. The officers deliver the groceries, which are selected by an oncology nutritionist, to the patients’ homes every Tuesday. Each family can receive up to two weeks of free food from Legacy of Hope.

"Coming from a family with grandparents and aunts (and) losing them to cancer, it's no greater joy than to be able to show up at someone's house with a bunch of groceries," Officer Lynneice Hill told WPVI-TV.

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