Unlike the Celebrate and Remember portions of the Relay For Life cycle, the final stage, Fight Back, is a personal choice. There is no one way to fight back against cancer. Some fight as it infects their bodies, while those who are still healthy look for a way to support their friends battling cancer and show their ongoing support of the efforts made by the American Cancer Society to find a cure.
For Dr. Nicola Ally, a radiation oncologist at the Epic Center in Antioch, Relay is an opportunity to remind the community about the resources available to cancer patients and caregivers so that they needn’t fight alone.
“Cancer is not a death sentence like it was 30 years ago,” said Ally. “Today, patients have more access to information and treatment centers. They don’t have to go across the country for care.
“There are new treatments to improve chances for survival. We know so much more, and having access to all that information gives cancer patients confidence that they can fight back.”
Epic Center, 4721 Dallas Ranch Road, provides comprehensive medical oncology, radiation oncology and hematology care for patients in East County. The center offers scans and lab services, treatments and genetic counseling and is involved in clinical trials.
According to Ally, Epic Center’s care providers treat the whole patient and not just the disease. For those afflicted with cancer, the center offers nutrition guidance as well as pain control and refers patients and caregivers to community support groups. It’s one thing to treat the disease, but doctors help patients live as normal a life as possible – not allowing patients be defined by their disease.
“It’s one thing to look at a chest X-ray that’s great and cancer free, but we want to make sure that the patient feels great as well,” Ally said. “Our main goal is to bring extraordinary care to our patients through caring and excellent physicians, top-notch nursing staff and a wonderful office staff to support patients and their needs. We believe that providing comprehensive cancer care under one roof brings more efficient, advanced and holistic care to patients because our team communicates so effectively on more than one level.”
But one of the most important elements of fighting back, said Ally, is talking back. Cancer patients need to keep an open dialogue with friends and family and urge them to get tested and screened for cancers, especially those that might be genetically at risk. Talking back also allows patients and survivors to advocate the importance of living healthy lives. It’s not only cancer patients who should focus on fighting back. Cancer-free individuals should take the fight against cancer just as seriously. While new information about cancer treatment is available, information about cancer prevention is also plentiful.
For one, people need to make an appointment with their doctor for regular checkups and physicals. At certain ages, people are required to partake in preventative cancer measures such as colonoscopies, mammograms for women, and prostate exams for men. It’s also vital they discuss with their doctor a nutrition and exercise plan.
Ally strongly recommends kicking the cigarette habit, which she said has been linked to lung, mouth and throat cancer as well as cancer of the pancreas, bladder and kidneys. Limiting alcohol consumption can also reduce cancer risks.
Fighting back can be as simple as slathering yourself with sunscreen before hitting the beach and making sure to reapply as needed. A sunburn will fade, but the lasting damage of too much sun exposure goes much deeper. The American Cancer Society recommends wearing a hat to shade ears, eyes, nose, forehead and scalp, wearing sunglasses, and wearing comfortable clothing that covers as much of your body as possible. While light colors keep you cooler, the sun’s rays are able to penetrate lighter-colored clothing, and the American Cancer Society recommends wearing something a little darker to act as a second defense paired with the sunscreen.
For more information about how you can fight back against cancer, visit www.relayforlife.org/relay/crfb.