by Chuck Hoven
(Plain Press, October 2018) Seventy people gathered at the Hispanic Alliance office on W. 25thand Clark for a Community Walk Against Cancer on September 8th. Walkers were greeted in the parking lot by Lakeland Community College Sophomore volunteers Laura Bertran, Juan Gutierrez and Eva Tevvones.
The Community Walk Against Cancer, a project of the Hispanic Alliance along with the Northeast Ohio Association for Hispanic Health (NOAHH), hopes to raise awareness of the importance of early detection in fighting cancer. Hispanic Alliance Community Engagement Coordinator Sonia Monroy Matis says she has come across a lot of people in the local Hispanic community that have suffered from cancer.
Member organizations of the Northeast Ohio Association for Hispanic Health were in attendance with literature tables and filled with resources for those in attendance. Organizations belonging to NOAHH include: Alzheimer’s Association, American Sickle Cell Anemia Association, CareSource, City of Cleveland Department of Health and Office of Minority Health, Cleveland Clinic, Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center, Hospice of the Western Reserve, MetroHealth Medical Center, Neighborhood Family Practice, University Hospitals, Visiting Nurses Association and YDH Consulting.
Walkers ventured out for the walk through the neighborhood after an opening prayer from Pastor Jose Reyes and a welcome from Lissette Lopez Piepenburg of University Hospitals’ Center for Clinical Excellence and Diversity Initiatives.
Hispanic Alliance’s Sonia Monroy Matis offered some instructions to walkers and separated the group into two mile and one-mile walkers. The group then set out for a walk through the Clark Metro neighborhood. Many of the walkers wore t-shirts on which they had written the name of the person for whom they were walking.
Sonia Monroy Matis led the group with chants of “Salud, Si”, “Cancer, No” as they marched down Clark Avenue and headed south through the neighborhood with the one mile and two mile groups each taking a different route.
Following the walk, a series of speakers addressed the walkers.
Lutheran Hospital President Dr. Donald A. Malone, Jr. talked about Lutheran Hospital and shared some insight about the relationship between his specialty – psychiatry and cancer recovery. Dr. Malone talked about the effort Lutheran Hospital is making to better serve the local Hispanic community, and noted the hospital now has Hispanic physicians that speak Spanish fluently.
Dr. Malone said psychiatrists work with cancer patients “to help them feel positive about their experience going through cancer.” Dr. Malone say he believes that “a positive attitude can make a difference in survival.”
Dr. Malone urged family and friends of cancer patients to provide them with support and help them to navigate the system. He stressed the importance of listening to what patients are saying, noting “depression can be a problem” for cancer patients. He said loved ones of a cancer patient should ask them about anxiety and depression and get them the help they need through a therapist, psychiatrist or psychologist.
Dr. Malone said the best thing you can do to take care of yourself and reduce the risk of getting cancer is to not smoke, or to stop smoking if you are a smoker. He said diet and exercise are also important to overall health and they probably help to reduce the risk of getting cancer.
Dr. Malone said in the future, genetic tests will help to tell who has at higher risk of getting cancer. He repeated what people can do now to reduce risk – don’t smoke, watch your diet and exercise. Dr. Malone also stressed the importance of doing the recommended cancer screenings.
Sondra Powell, Assistant Director of Community Outreach and Patient Navigation for Cleveland Clinic’s Taussig Cancer Institute stressed the importance of breast cancer screening.
Maria Brown, a pediatric nurse at University Hospitals, talked about children and cancer. She stressed the importance of paying attention to kids who are not eating well or not growing and gaining weight at the expected rate. If you expect that something is wrong, go see a doctor, she urged.
There was some discussion about how to get kids to eat a healthier diet and about the unhealthy food in vending machines at schools.
Marie Ritchie of CareSource shared some health care tips in Spanish and answered questions and addressed concerns about cancer from of the many Spanish language speakers amongst the walkers.
Several testimonies followed from cancer survivors. All stressed the importance of testing and early detection in their survival.
Hispanic Alliance Executive Director Juan Molina Crespo thanked the event sponsors. He thanked Lorraine Surgical Supply for providing wheel chairs for the walk and thanked the City of Cleveland Office of Minority Health for its support.
Executive Director Molina Crespo talked about Northeast Ohio Association for Hispanic Health and the importance of partnerships and relationships in addressing community issues. He said such relationships help volunteers and staff feel they are not alone in their efforts to promote their ideals. Molina Crespo finished his remarks urging those who were not yet registered to vote to get registered. He noted the critical importance of voting.