Posted by John Marr

Justin LaMontagne has had to deal with the fear and paralysis that a diagnosis of cancer brings to a family. Since he had a degree of familiarity with the Maine Cancer Foundation, he reached out to them to help his family deal with this hideous disease. The Foundation proved to be the best resource for his family and helped them successfully travel through to a positive ending. The experience made a distinct impression on Justin and he suggested that they make a presentation to the Club. Justin introduced today’s guest speaker, Ray Ruby, who is the Community Outreach Manager for this Maine non-profit focused on prevention and early intervention as the means to reduce the cancer related mortality rate in Maine.

Ray has an interesting background. He grew up in Connecticut but moved to Maine and joined the Portland Police Department. While on the force he continued his studies and went on to obtain a degree in non-profit management and went on to recently join the Maine Cancer Foundation. In preparation for the presentation, Ray did some research since he expected to find that Rotary was involved and assisted with the work of the Foundation. He found quite a legacy of assistance from the Rotary Clubs in the state, particularly Portland.

The Maine Cancer Foundation concentrates on assisting the patients and practitioners. Every dollar that the MCF raises, over 7 million since 2015, remains in Maine. The Foundation leaves the research work projects to the American Cancer Society and supplements the work of the medical and research professionals by concentrating on the practical application of their findings. The MCF realizes that education is a huge component of any care plan to eradicate the disease in an individual. We learned that the people of Maine suffer a higher than normal rate of cancers. It is thought that many of the causes are attributed to lifestyle and environmental factors, consequently by getting the word out, early and emphatically, to the people in the state, they can favorably impact the mortality rate. The most prominent example of the education outreach is the smoking cessation programs that are reducing the number of younger smokers in Maine. The concentration on early intervention and detection is a critical element in any effort to contain the rate and provide a favorable end result. Simply stated, if we avoid environmental and lifestyle factors and recognize symptoms early in the process, we can significantly improve survival rates. The number of products with potentially hazardous ingredients was made known and it was suggested that we examine products prior to applying or ingesting them.

The geography of our state is part of the reason for our cancer rate being higher than the norm. The remote areas of the state suffer limited medical resources and travel can become a factor. When you add to the mix the demographics, it adds to the problem and the need for the services of the MCF. The Foundation works to help people recognize the telltale signs of the disease and seek immediate care. It is widely accepted that early detection and intervention is the most important factor in any effort to reduce the mortality statistic. However, if you think you have cancer, but can't get to a doctor, it is not only frustrating but deadly. Therefore, the Maine Cancer Foundation has programs to help people in need get rides and access to medical care. Every year, there are over 8,000 Maine residents who are diagnosed with the disease and in need of care.

The Maine Cancer Foundation conducts a number of fundraisers to support their outreach and assistance programs. They initiated the “Tri For a Cure,” “Mary’s Walk,” and the “Twilight 5K” run, to help raise needed funds to help the citizens of Maine to concentrate on 1) prevention (no smoking and limiting sun and chemical exposure ), 2) detection (breast self exam, colorectal studies, and noting changes in one’s body), and 3) access to expert health care. These are the things that each of us can do to prolong our life and avoid the disruption and devastation that cancer brings.

The Maine Cancer Foundation is spawning the collaboration and education that is giving us a way to gain some degree of control over the disease. The battle is far from over. In fact, the statistics are not as favorable as we would like, given the effort. There are still too many people who smoke, spend too much time in the sun without protection, are overweight and unaware of the known carcinogens that are omnipresent in our environment. We are all getting older and suffering exposure, but this is not a death sentence nor an excuse. If we pay attention to the signs, we can get the care we need and take advantage of the miraculous care that is being developed to turn the tide on this scourge.

(Photo L-R: Justin Lamontagne, Ray Ruby, Heather Drake and President John Curran.)