If you listen to Buffalo’s 103.3 The Edge radio station, then you’ve probably heard James Kurdziel grace the airwaves. This week on his twitter account, James shared the very real (and emotional) reason why he participates in The Ride For Roswell – for his mom. Read his story below.
What would you do if you had to have chemo five days a week but didn’t have a way to travel to your treatment? Or if you didn’t speak the same language as your doctor and couldn’t understand their instructions? How scared might you be in an already-frightening situation?
Patients at Roswell Park facing these vital questions have a little less to worry about thanks to two donor-supported quality-of-life programs addressing transportation and translation needs.
These are just two of the 44 programs that received $1,182,459 in funding last year thanks to donor support. The Alliance Foundation’s quality-of-life grants fund resources and services that might not fall directly under the cancer-care umbrella but are critical to a patient’s treatment and well-being all the same.
Many patients have trouble getting to Roswell Park for treatment, especially when caring family and friends still have to work. Fortunately, Roswell Park is able to provide transportation services to many patients.
“We arrange for about 600 rides per month,” says Pat Czamara, Roswell Park’s Director of Case Management and Interim Director of the Social Work Department.
The no-cost assistance program helps to relieve a great burden for patients and helps to ensure that they can receive their cancer care.
It is available to both inpatients and outpatients, including nursing home residents when their facility doesn’t provide transportation. A loved one or other caregiver can also ride with patients to their appointments.
The service is provided to any patient who expresses need and lives within the radius covered by this quality-of-life program: 25 miles in the city of Buffalo and 50 miles in rural areas. The service is available for Roswell Park’s main downtown campus and for its satellite locations in Amherst and Niagara Falls. Patients or their family members can simply call a dedicated transportation line at least 24 working hours ahead of their appointment time weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. to get assistance.
“The goal is to increase their access to care, reduce interruptions to their treatment plans, and assist them in reducing or eliminating transportation-related barriers by offering comprehensive nonemergency transportation,” explains Czamara.
Without this program, some patients could be forced to put off or even cancel much-needed treatments.
“I appreciate that Roswell has transportation for cancer patients because a lot of us don’t have ways of getting there, ” says a multiple myeloma patient who utilizes the service for chemotherapy and doctor appointments. “Thank you to people for donating to Roswell for transportation — and other things, too. Cancer research and everything. It’s a blessing that Roswell is here.”
Language Assistance/Interpreter Services
When a new patient registers at the hospital or makes their first appointment by phone, Roswell Park staff assess whether they might have limited English proficiency or hearing impairment. When one of these is the case, wheels are set in motion to provide interpreter services at no charge whenever they have a scheduled appointment.
“We work collaboratively with multiple language assistance providers and use technology to reach out to qualified area interpreters who can come to Roswell Park to interpret for our patients or, if that’s not possible, to provide that interpretation telephonically,” says Czamara.
“We have a large number of non-English-speaking patients coming here,” she adds, with Spanish being the No. 1 request. Patient need for these services has grown rapidly in recent years, and last year, there were 3,161 total orders for language assistance/ interpreter services in 30 different languages.
Telephonic interpretation, also known as a language line, is also available 24/7 for patients when an in-person interpreter may notbe available. Document translation may also be provided as needed.
Kathryn knows how to follow her gut. When it led her to Roswell Park, it may have saved her life.
She didn’t start out there. In 2015 Kathryn was diagnosed with endometrial cancer. She did her research and selected an oncologic surgeon with a strong background. Under their care, she had surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. But the cancer kept coming back.
“Each time that they said I was good and I was supposed to wait to have a CT, I just got a dark feeling and asked for the CT sooner. That’s how they caught the cancer each time.”
Just before the second surgery her doctor then scheduled, she received some pre-surgery information in the mail that showed a gruesome illustration of the potential aftermath of the procedure.
“I thought, This is not how I want to end my life. I think I should do more looking and fighting.”
That’s when she called Roswell Park. She immediately saw Emese Zsiros, MD, in the Department of Gynecologic Oncology. “She had a great bedside manner. She was really truthful about the options I had and what I should be willing to do. I walked out of there with a new spirit.”
Dr. Zsiros began Kathryn’s Roswell Park treatment with hormone therapy. When the cancer was still spotted on the next CT scan, she recommended some specialized testing including OmniSeq Immune Report Card®.
OmniSeq Immune Report Card develops a profile of the patient’s immune system to determine which immunotherapies and clinical trials are likely to help it do its best fighting.
Immune Report Card indicated that she would have a favorable response to a specific immunotherapy drug. She started getting it every three weeks.
Kathryn has had a complete response to the drug that was recommended as a result of the OmniSeq test, which means she’s currently cancer-free and no longer receiving the immunotherapy. She knows she might have to go on it again if any cancer comes back. But for now, she’s thankful for the test and the positive impact it and Roswell Park have made on her cancer journey.
Thanks to donor giving, the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is now paying for OmniSeq Immune Report Card testing for Roswell Park patients, with the hope that establishing a base of successful data will lead insurance companies to cover it, giving many more patients access to this important test.
“I’m not sorry about a whole lot of things, but I’m only sorry I didn’t go to Roswell first thing,” Kathryn says now. “I look forward to being healthy enough to witness another granddaughter’s marriage, and I still haven’t seen one of my grandbabies, so I’m looking forward to the summer, when they’ll be coming to visit.”