As a cancer patient, I’ve certainly seen how the pandemic affected my own personal health care. I’m living with neuroendocrine carcinoid cancer. I’m lucky. We keep my cancer non-life-threatening by scanning for tumors regularly. They’re removed when they are smaller than the tip of a pencil eraser. By doing these routine blood panels, CT and PET scans, I avoid radiation and chemotherapy. I don’t consider myself an “urgent” patient. That brought me a lot of peace when I wasn’t able to see my oncologist for the better part of this past year. But I often thought about those sweet patients that desperately relied on getting the treatment they needed. How was the pandemic affecting their ability to be seen? With waiting rooms limiting capacity to two or three patients at a time, how was everybody being seen and treated? You have to understand, my cancer center has always had at least twenty to thirty people in the waiting room at all hours of operation. And I often thought about the organization that I have always known is responsible for taking care of all of us cancer patients.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created the most challenging year the American Cancer Society has faced in its nearly 108-year history. To protect the health and safety of their staff and volunteers, and cancer patients and survivors, they had to make the difficult decision to cancel their face-to-face events, which put millions of research and patient program dollars at risk. · Now that I feel we’re in a little bit better of a place with this pandemic, I was eager to touch base with Gary Reedy. He’s been serving as the ACS CEO for the last six years. He joined us in-studio last week to discuss that despite the daunting circumstances, the mission of the American Cancer Society will continue. Cancer patients and survivors depend on ACS, and they know it. And they’ve pledged not to let us down.
Thanks to innovation and a can-do attitude on the part of ACS staff and volunteers, they were able to quickly pivot to a digital platform for their big events like Relay For Life, Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, and galas, including the Hope Ball here in Atlanta. iHeart was right there doing everything we could to support these efforts. But still, we all know that non-profits suffered due to COVID. And because the American Cancer Society is obviously an organization that I support, I was concerned about the impact of the pandemic on ACS revenue. Gary was great about being incredibly candid with us about it.
“We are beginning to turn the corner and start to return to some semblance of normal. In the third quarter, we plan to reopen our Hope Lodges nationwide, which provide free lodging to cancer patients who are undergoing cancer treatment. We'll start with 30 percent capacity at first and make decisions on expanding that number as it is safe and warranted. We are actively encouraging a return to cancer screening. Many people have foregone routine screenings during the pandemic due to the COVID outbreak, and hospitals and medical facilities filled to capacity with COVID patients. I can honestly say that I'm feeling very hopeful now with the developments I see. I have great hope for cancer patients, hope for the American Cancer Society's next chapter, and hope for the future.”
Gary cautioned us that he doesn’t think we are ever going to return to what was normal just a year ago and that we will all be a part of creating the organization's new normal and how they work, deliver on their mission, and raise revenue. And the ACS has rewritten their strategic plans to position them for success in our future normal. But Gary feels like the ACS is well-positioned to deliver on its mission in the future and to provide the support and service cancer patients, and survivors need.
The American Cancer Society is the largest volunteer cancer-fighting organization in the United States. I’m so grateful for them. ACS and the ACS Cancer Action Network will still meet the needs of cancer patients, caregivers, and volunteers today and into the future. You may not know this, but the American Cancer Society's global headquarters is located right here in Georgia. It matters to me as I – and maybe you or someone you love – are cancer patients right here too.
As we all tend to see our lives return to something closer to what we thought normal was a year ago, I’m so thankful for the unwavering dedication of the ACS staff, volunteers, and corporate partners. Gary has done a phenomenal job leading the team. He’s stepping down as CEO soon with twenty years of volunteer service to ACS and then six years as CEO. He’ll be re-joining the ACS ranks as a volunteer after he retires.
My request of you is to give that buck or two if you have it. Become educated about everything that the American Cancer Society does for those who are diagnosed. All you need to do is click HERE. In the least, use the Instagram post below and follow it. You really won't believe just how much they have done and will continue to do. Breast cancer, colon cancer, pancreatic cancer…there are so many cancers. These people do selfless REALLY amazing work. And you want them in your corner if you get this awful diagnosis. More and more people are beating cancer. I believe the American Cancer Society is a huge reason why. Do what you can to make either a monetary donation or even a donation of your time to volunteer. Or do both. It matters. It really REALLY matters.