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Photo by Diane Cox
OSF Saint Anthony’s radiation therapist Lea Barrett shows students technology used to fight cancer. MCHS Principal Mike Slaughter (left) took the tour with students. Also pictured (from left) are club moderator Becky Schulz, Nathan Brown, Brittany Pace, Emma Taylor and Megan Bunce.
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Photo by Diane Cox
Bethalto resident Lois Rhodes (back row, center) stands next to radiation oncology nurse Karen Boyd and breast navigator and cancer survivor Heather Jones after ringing the bell following her last breast cancer treatment at Saint Clare’s in Alton. The Marquette Catholic Breast Cancer Awareness Club witnessed Rhodes ring the bell to signal her accomplishment.
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Photo by Diane Cox
Physicist Dr. John Chorzel explains to students how a CAT scan helps develop treatments.
ALTON — Bethalto resident Lois Rhodes strolled from her last cancer treatment to ring the bell at OSF Saint Anthony’s Health Center at Saint Clare’s Friday and found herself surrounded by students from the Marquette Catholic High School Breast Cancer Awareness Club.
“Today the Marquette students were able to get a glimpse of the process of cancer survival from diagnosis to ringing the bell,” radiation oncology nurse Karen Boyd said. “No two cancers are the same and no two treatments are the same either. Each patient has their own unique plan to battle cancer, but the one thing every patient has in common is hope.”
In 2008, supportive classmates comforted a Marquette student whose family member was battling cancer. The club was formed by those classmates to offer support to one another, learn more about cancer and treatment methods, and raise funds for research to find a cure.
“One student said it would be a good idea to have some sort of support group,” club moderator Becky Schulz said. “The kids formed the group on their own and it has continued to grow every year. I just post meeting times and the kids show up and plan events and have open discussions. They have a teacher right now that is fighting through pancreatic cancer, so it’s hitting close to home for them again.”
The club was escorted through the cancer treatment center by nurses, physicists, radiation therapists and navigators. OSF breast cancer navigator Heather Jones is not only an employee — she’s a breast cancer survivor.
“The moment you find out you have cancer, you are a survivor,” Jones said. “The reason you are a survivor from the moment you are diagnosed is because cancer is no longer an instant death sentence. Treatments and technology have advanced so much that more than 80 percent of people diagnosed with breast cancer survive with a longer and healthier quality of life.”
Many patients diagnosed with cancer will experience a combination of radiation, chemotherapy and surgical treatments. Some patients will receive treatments up to five days a week for six weeks.
As part of the tour, students heard information from Dr. John Chorzel, a physicist who along with oncologists and nutritionists helps design patients’ treatment plans.
The primary reason the club formed was to bring awareness to early detection, treatment options and learning that no one battles cancer alone. Club president and senior Andria Pace and her sister Brittany said they learned no one is immune to cancer.
“This group is very important,” Andria Pace said. “I know we call the group Breast Cancer Awareness, but it’s really just about cancer awareness. Brittany and I have had a lot of experience with cancer. We lost our dad to multiple myeloma this past August. I know what it’s like to be in a family where cancer affects us all.
“We put on a lot of fundraising events at sporting events and a lot of high school kids get behind and support it,” she said. “We have Volley for a Cure for volleyball and Pack the Place Pink night for basketball to help raise funds for research. Those types of events are very popular and draw a great crowd. We donate our proceeds to the American Cancer Society.”
The key to surviving cancer is early detection and regular visits to a primary care physician, health experts say. Self-exams are crucial in detecting breast cancer. As with many types of cancer, a tumor can grow rapidly before symptoms begin.
For more information, visit www.osfhealthcare.org.