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Aspen nonprofit extends helping hand

Rick CarrollThe Aspen TimesAspen CO Colorado

ASPEN – Cancer patients at select medical facilities throughout the country can soon turn to an Aspen nonprofit for psychological support.The Aspen-based Pillars4Life Foundation, which has created an online program influenced by the local Pathfinders nonprofit, announced Monday that it is a beneficiary of the 2012 Community Impact Project created by the Lance Armstrong Foundation.The grant, nearly $400,000, allows the Pillars4Life virtual cancer-support program to be used by patients and caregivers at 20 hospitals throughout the United States. Pathfinders, which is based in Aspen, will continue to serve cancer patients throughout the Roaring Fork Valley.”Pathfinders is going to stay special to Aspen,” said Kristin MacDermott, who co-founded Pathfinders in 2003 with Tina Staley and is a Pillars4Life co-founder, as well. Since its inception, Pathfinders has served more than 1,200 cancer patients and their caregivers, including 340 in 2011. It does so through its Pathfinder Angels, whose hands-on help includes making and delivering meals to patients and providing doctor referrals. The nonprofit also provides financial aid to cancer patients, and its counselors, who are called “Pathfinders,” teach victims, caregivers and families coping mechanisms to help them deal with the disease.The psychological support of Pathfinders has provided the impetus for the creation of Pillars4Life. But while Pathfinders provides one-on-one assistance to valley cancer patients, the Pillars4Life support system will be implemented online.Pillars4Life was formed after MacDermott and Staley decided that the Pathfinders support model could be provided outside the valley, which led to a two-year study beginning in 2008 at the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center in Durham, N.C. There, researchers determined that psychological support given to cancer patients, even those whose disease progressed, improved their quality of life.The 20 hospitals that were selected to use the Pillars4Life program were selected through an online voting campaign held March 7 through 23.MacDermott and Catherine Anne Provine, who became president of the Pillars4Life and Pathfinders foundations in February, said counselors will begin training this summer. Cancer patients and caregivers at the medical facilities will be able to attend video conferencing online and access other virtual offerings from Pillars4Life. The foundation also is working on providing computers to patients who don’t have one.MacDermott said the goal is to launch the Pillars4Life program online in one year.”Patients will have a one-stop place for everyone to go,” MacDermott said. “That is the backbone of this.”She noted that cancer victims, no matter what stage they are in, can benefit from the program.”Whether you have been just diagnosed, are transferring to the end of life, a survivor, we have a way of helping people at all stages,” she said.Provine said that cancer survivors also can suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.”Even five years later there are the psychological effect of treatment and diagnosis,” she said. The support offered by Pillars4Life, MacDermott said, might not provide the one-on-one treatment that Pathfinders can give to its valley patients and caregivers, but there is a human touch nonetheless, she noted.”We believe this is the beginning of a new era of accessible psychological support for cancer patients and their families,” MacDermott said.The participating hospitals are: Simms/Mann – UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology at UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, Los Angeles; Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center & Children’s Hospital, Spokane, Wash.; Huntsman Cancer Hospital, Salt Lake City; Methodist Richardson Medical Center and Cancer Center, Richardson, Texas; The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital – Siteman Cancer Center, St. Louis, Mo.; Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, Houston; Sanford Cancer Center, Sioux Falls, S.D.; Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center, La Crosse, Wis.; Lankenau Medical Center, Wynnewood, Pa.; Anne Arundel Medical Center, Annapolis, Md.; Methodist Healthcare, Memphis, Tenn.; Indiana University Health West Hospital, Avon, Ind.; Lakeland Regional Medical Center, Lakeland, Fla.; Cancer Program of Mary Bird Perkins and St. Tammany Parish Hospital, Covington, La.; Roper St. Francis Healthcare, Charleston, S.C.; University of Virginia Health System – Emily Couric Clinical Cancer Center, Charlottesville, Va.; Duke University Medical Center, Durham; VA NY Harbor Healthcare System, Brooklyn, N.Y.; Stony Brook University Hospital, Stony Brook, N.Y.; and New York-Presbyterian/Will Cornell, New York City.rcarroll@aspentimes.com


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