Despite the challenges of the last year, we at MNC are eagerly anticipating a better year ahead with new programs in development for our community as well a couple of new drug therapies on the horizon. To say that 2020 has tested all of us in one way or another is an understatement. COVID-19 has presented significant challenges to our healthcare system. It has had negative impacts on our patient community – a community that often already has difficulty accessing timely diagnosis and treatment. This has increased anxiety for patients and families. It has also increased the potential for missed or delayed treatment and has created added stress and pressure for our medical teams.
Along with many of you and perhaps your workplaces, Melanoma Network of Canada (MNC), had to turn on a dime and modify services, programs and fundraising activities. What we, as an organization, were able to achieve in 2020, embracing our need to change gears quickly, is a testimony to our resiliency. Our Board of Directors, our ever caring and committed staff, and our community of volunteers and supporters helped MNC weather the storm and still produce some new and amazing programs and services.
Cancer doesn’t care about COVID-19 and we know we continue to push forward.
While we have many challenges ahead in delivering our programming, which has been in greater demand this past year, we have managed the transition smoothly. Cancer doesn’t care about COVID-19 and we know we continue to push forward. In fact, we continue to distribute our materials at record rates. We have responded to thousands of inquiries and support calls, delivered virtual support groups, provided informative webinars, developed two patient-input drug submissions, and created new awareness and prevention videos – all in the midst of this chaotic environment.
One of MNC’s biggest achievements coming out of 2020, and one that fulfilled a long-held goal of mine, was the development of the first CME accredited primary care physician education program. This program is available as of February 2021 on-line to help educate primary care physicians in the identification of melanoma and skin cancers. This will truly help save lives by helping physicians to diagnosis skin cancers more effectively, educate about treatment therapies, and triage to the appropriate follow up as required. Many thanks to our corporate sponsors and donors who were instrumental in funding the development of this program, which we hope to make available for years to come.
Patience, Empathy and Hope
I have already mentioned resiliency and how that will help us adapt and learn from the current environment. But for those struggling through treatment or waiting for results on their diagnosis, we can help by having patience and empathy, more so than ever. Merriam-Webster defines empathy in part as ‘the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another..’ In other words, we must meet people where they are—to understand what they are facing. It is nearly impossible to put ourselves in the shoes of others with a cancer diagnosis. However, that connection comes from our own life struggles and difficulties—and we all have them. I have never met anyone who went through life carefree.
These experiences can either harden you or soften you—but we always learn from them. I know empathy alone is not enough. We also need hope. We may not know what is around the corner, but we have to hope that we will prevail. Improved treatments and diagnostics continue to come. The road for patients is a tough one. Resiliency, empathy for each other, and hope will get us through the challenges we are facing. MNC will be there to help our patient community on their journey, ensuring access to therapies, information, support, and resources. With your continued support, we will continue to make a difference!
ANNETTE CYR Three-time melanoma survivor, Chair & Founder, Melanoma Network of Canada