By Danielle Dodder
“Thanks to Relay for Life, all of the services we offer here on Marco are free.” Wendy Rivera is the administrative assistant for the Marco chapter of the American Cancer Society. Rivera is proud that the Marco Relay teams raised $216,139.06 last year, ranking them sixth in the state, and she wants to emphasize that those funds stay close to home to help locals in need.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and alongside the pink bra logos we see splashed around town are key resources to help those now struggling with the disease. “Lots of times [during treatment] your skin changes, your hair falls out.” Rivera points out that something as simple as learning how to draw on realistic eyebrows becomes another hurdle to normalcy for someone dealing with cancer.
Look Good, Feel Better is the program designed to help women in chemotherapy regain some of that vital normalcy back. A licensed cosmetologist is available to teach personalized makeup techniques and makeup kits are free. The Gift Closet is stocked with mastectomy bras, breast prosthesis and wigs. “We have tons of wigs,” adds Rivera.
Cancer survivors themselves act as a light at the end of a tunnel for those newly facing the disease. Reach for Recovery volunteers give support and guidance either by phone or face to face, and share information and coping strategies for individuals and families.
Currently, five local volunteers participate in the Road to Recovery program. These volunteers drive patients to and from treatment sessions. “Sometimes people have a ride to treatment but are struggling with money. We also help with gas cards to help them pay for transportation,” says Rivera.
Although Breast Cancer Awareness Month places the focus on women’s issues, Rivera wants to point out that the same support services are available for men. Additionally, she is interested in bringing local colon cancer survivors together for an ostomy support group.
The first step in accessing these, and many other key services available to cancer patients and their families, is to stop in the ACS office and register. Registration can also be done through the 800 number, but Rivera recommends the personalized guidance an in-person visit can provide.
The Marco chapter has undergone several recent changes. They are now located at 583 Tallwood Street. Relay for Life will take place at Marco Island Charter Middle School. Rivera says the chapter is looking for volunteer assistance with both its fundraising events and its outreach services. “We need volunteers for Relay for Life and for the Gala. We have lots of fun events coming up and we also need cancer survivors to help with the support network.”
• If interested in volunteering for the Marco ACS chapter, please contact Wendy Rivera at 239-264-8800 or visit the office at 583 Tallwood Street, Suite 101.
• To contact the American Cancer Society through the national hotline, call 1-800-227-2345.