2020 will go down in history as one that has adversely affected us all. We salute all of those on the front lines. We remember those that have passed and give encouragement and love to those that are struggling. With the advent of the Coronavirus vaccines, there is light at the end of the tunnel, but we must remain vigilant with mask wearing, social distancing, and hand washing during the holidays and likely for at least 6 months, if not longer, until the vaccination gets into the arms of the vast majority of people in the United States and the world. We must also trust the science that is evolving about this virus. With this in mind, the Survivor Journeys™ Board of Directors and staff wishes you the happiest and healthiest New Year.

You become a cancer survivor the moment you are diagnosed with cancer. 

Cancer survivorship is living before, during, and after cancer treatment. 

If you learn and remember the above two statements, you will understand the mission of Survivor Journeys™: To provide emotional, social, and educational support to cancer survivors, their caregivers, and loved ones. In other words, we want to provide tools to empower you to live your life.

I am happy to report that Survivor Journeys™ (SJ) has met the challenge of the Covid-19 pandemic and has grown through 2020 and our continued growth will extend into 2021. Our cancer specific and caregiver support groups were moved to the Zoom platform in April. This has actually allowed cancer survivors and caregivers from beyond our community to attend these groups. We moved our Cancer Survivorship 101 one day educational program to a monthly series on the SJ website (www.survivorjourneys.org) that also archives these presentations with the 2018-19 programs for continual access. The purpose of Cancer Survivorship 101 is to provide information that cancer survivors, caregivers, and loved ones struggle to find and do not get in the medical exam room. Cancer Survivorship 101 will continue in this format for the foreseeable future and we have many national thought leaders in cancer survivorship scheduled to present topical issues. 

While our pet therapy program has been limited due to the pandemic, our mentoring program continues to grow. We have national partners, including major cancer centers and other peer mentoring organizations, with access to more than 10,000 mentors to help those that are struggling. When I was struggling with being diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in 2010, there was no such local program. However, a friend of mine had a college friend who had the same diagnosis and underwent the same treatment plan one and a half years prior to that time and connected us. After spending an hour talking on the phone, I felt greatly reassured about the treatment I needed to have. I was a physician and my “mentor” was not, but I recognized how powerful this form of support was for me. When I founded SJ, I knew we had to have a mentoring program as a form of support. 

As we look ahead into the New Year, we are excited to announce a pilot program with the Bennett Cancer Center of Stamford (CT) Hospital who will be referring cancer survivors and caregivers in need of support to SJ. In addition, our association with the Cancer Survivor Provider Network will allow for more referrals to our programs. 

In addition to our current support groups, we are developing another Breast Cancer support group, as well as Prostate/Men’s Cancer, and Gynecological Oncology support groups. We are also starting a much-needed Spanish speaking Any Cancer Zoom support group in February 2021, the first of its kind in the area. Our website offers Google translate which can connect so many who have English as a second language to our programs and resources. 

This year has presented an opportunity for SJ program participants to become involved in cancer survivorship research opportunities. This has started with research into cognitive changes after cancer treatment and will be followed by research into fear and anxiety about cancer recurrence. We are hopeful that we will continue to be recognized as a site to help further cancer survivorship research. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has certainly created so many challenges for so many. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, fundraising has been a challenge. We are grateful to our major sponsors: The S. Prestley and Helen Blake Fund of the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, WWLP-TV-22/CW, Rediker Software, Springfield Thunderbirds, EB’s Restaurant, Dusty and Mary Lou Hoyt, and Jay and Johanne Presser. We could not continue to provide our free programs without all donations, large and small, and we appreciate all of these. We continue to need your financial support and we hope we can count on you.

Survivor Journeys™ was founded in March 2015, because of inadequate cancer survivorship services and programs in our community. However, there is much more to do and more people to reach. Our major goal for this year is to create more awareness about cancer survivorship (see the two definitions at the top of page one) among cancer survivors, caregivers, their loved ones, medical and behavioral professionals, and the general public. We want you to know you can turn to us when things gets tough and you are not getting these answers in the medical exam room. You are part of the journey too. Please email us at (survivorshipprogram@gmail.com) with your Cancer Survivorship 101 topic ideas, program ideas (we may already be developing them or have collaborations in development!), and certainly requests for participation in our free programs. 

I would be remiss if I did not thank the Survivor Journeys™ Board of Directors, support group co-facilitators, staff, and volunteers for all of their efforts. Our growth and success is truly a team effort. 

Most importantly, please be safe, be well, and let’s all hope 2021 brings a much brighter light to our lives.

Sincerely,

Jay Burton, DO
President and Founder,
Survivor Journeys™