Workshop to target images of cancer in Appalachia

By Kathy Helms-Hughes

   Have you ever tried to talk to friends or family members who have been diagnosed with cancer? If so, you might have wished that you had received some special coaching in order to respond appropriately.
   On Thursday, April 24, the Rural Appalachian Cancer Demonstration Program at East Tennessee State University will host a workshop at Meadowview Conference Center in Kingsport about cancer communication in Appalachia.
   "The purpose is really to share, to think, and to learn about how we can communicate better about cancer here in Appalachia, and how we can teach the people that come to be more effective senders and receivers of cancer information," said Chris Gage, a student spokeswoman for ETSU's Cancer Program.
   The program will consist of a succession of small-group workshops on various topics. "They will have people from the community, cancer patients, and cancer survivors together talking about what they think about the issues," she said.
   Debra Geary, director of the ETSU Cancer Program, has recognized that people in the community have certain preconceived ideas about cancer, Gage said. Some of those ideas will be discussed during the workshop, including:
   * Why learn about risk factors if my doctor doesn't have the time to discuss them?
   * Why go for treatment if you are going to die from the cancer anyway?
   * Chemicals in food and in the air cause cancer; I don't have any control over that.
   * Radiation will cook you; the treatment is worse than the disease.
   * Clinical trials are experiments; they're going to try something and they don't know if it's going to work or not.
   * All cancer symptoms can be symptoms of something else. How do you know?
   * No one survives cancer; I don't know any survivors.
   * People don't get screened because the tests are embarrassing or uncomfortable.
   Persons attending the workshop will have a chance to interact with local providers and cancer specialists, and an opportunity to learn some specific skills to talk with friends, family, and doctors about cancer.
   The conference begins at 8:30 a.m. with an informal breakfast and continues throughout the day, ending with a dinner and keynote address at 6 p.m.
   Attendance is free for interested community members, patients and their families, survivors, and local community volunteers. Persons planning to attend are encouraged to register so that meals and space can be planned accordingly.
   For questions or more information, contact Debora Geary, program director, Rural Appalachian Cancer Demonstration Program at or (423) 439-8056.