Sunday, July 22, 2001

Cancer worker reaches needy

By Denise Smith Amos
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        For many of Susan Hoover's breast cancer clients, cancer isn't their biggest problem. Drug abuse is. Or sometimes it's poverty. Homelessness may factor in, but so can racism and distrust.

Know someone who has successfully bridged the racial divide? Tell us about it.
        Ms. Hoover is a clinical social worker at Cancer Family Care, a 30-year-old agency in Cincinnati's mostly black Mount Auburn neighborhood. Each year, it counsels 2,800 to 3,000 people, offering support for patients with cancer or other life-threatening illness.

        Nearly one in three of Cancer Family Care's clients is a minority, said Andrea Herzig, a spokeswoman. The agency seeks African-American clients through community programs such as Taste of Christianity at Revelation Baptist Church or the Urban League's block parties.

        “Cancer rates and morbidity are higher for African-Americans than for other races,” Ms. Herzig said. The reasons: genetics, poor diets due to poverty, smoking, less access to health care, and a greater distrust of the medical system, she said.

        Ms. Hoover is one way Cancer Family Care tries to overcome that.

        A psychotherapist whose caseload is mostly African- American women, Ms. Hoover runs the Sisters of Support Resource Network, a group of breast cancer survivors who help one-on-one with the many needs of newly diagnosed black women.

        Ms. Hoover tries to match them, so the black lumpectomy patient talks with a black woman who also underwent it, or a patient who just lost her hair to chemotherapy deals with another who faced the same shock.

        “Five years ago, we did a lot of individual counseling for ... adjustment disorder from the cancer; now cancer is not their biggest problem,” she said.

        Volunteers visit clients in their homes or hospital beds. “We like to say we still make house calls,” Ms. Herzig said.

        Ms. Hoover also refers clients to Patterns, a support group for black women with breast cancer that got its start five years ago at Cancer Family Care.

        Information: Cancer Family Care, 731-3346.

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