New Cancer Stats For Ohio

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Tarice Sims- Five years ago Rachel Fish's life changed forever. At 47 years old, she had developed breast cancer - a disease that claimed the life of her mother years earlier. Fish says in the years leading up to her diagnosis she had maintained a very healthy lifestyle. And even though her mother had the disease, it came as a complete shock.

Rachel Fish- I've for many, many years done a lot of internal work. I mean I've been very exploratory about myself so, when I asked why it had to do with the feeling I had kind of let my body down. In the sense that I had in some way not taken care of it and my immune system went "Kapooey".

TS- Fish says she felt like escaping but knew she couldn't. The wife and mother of a little girl says she also wanted to be healthy again - instantly. Fish went through two rounds of chemotherapy and had a mastectomy. She says she was overwhelmed by the bits of "advice" she received regarding what vitamins and supplements to take and even diet. Yet through the experience she learned to rely on her inner strength.

RF- It was almost like being shoved up against the wall brought shadows but also brought great light. That was unexpected.

TS- Fish still nurtures that light on her own and through the services of The Gathering Place, a unique facility which offers free wellness services specifically for those dealing with cancer. Unfortunately it was not open when she was first diagnosed in 1997. Since opening its doors in 2000, it has helped Fish and many others gain perspective on the disease through alternative treatments including massage therapy and reiki sessions. Executive Director Eileen Saffran says there are so many people who were already paying large sums of money to have this type of service.

Eileen Saffran-Again complementing the traditional medical approaches they may be obtaining which we support whole heartedly, with the kinds off integrative approaches. Whether it's support or relaxation and imagery or spirituality or all those kinds of things.

TS- The Gathering Place offers classes on wellness that deal with grooming tips and nutrition, and they even have a library where those living with cancer can learn more about their disease. It helps people like Fish deal with the questions of what to do. But there are lingering questions as to why cancer strikes certain people. Dr. Maurie Markman is head of the Taussig Cancer center for the Cleveland Clinic.

Maurie Markman- Beyond tobacco, it is absolutely true we cannot draw clear cut cause-and-effect with exception of sun exposure for certain types of skin cancers.

TS- The American Cancer Society reports that 30% of all cancers are caused by tobacco. Also another 30% are related to diet. Dr. Markman says there is a lot of information out there about environmental causes and even foods but the medical world does not have many clear-cut answers.

MM-When you get into the questions of certain kinds of foods, certain things that people are exposed to, it becomes much more complicated and it is very fair to say that basically life is the most important factor in the relationship between the development of cancer. And that relates to the fact that cancer is more common in the elderly.

TS- The latest statistics say that 77% of all cancer cases in occur in people 55 or older. But there is good news. The overall mortality rate in Ohio dropped 5% - that's the sharpest reduction in the past decade. Elsewhere, the state is making use of the tobacco settlement fund to help curb Ohioans appetite for the substance. The Southern Ohio Agriculture Community Development Foundation has started working with tobacco farmers who want to stop growing the product. The Foundation's Executive Director Don Branson says they've also committed more than $2 million of their 2002 budget to educate farmers who want to make a change. Meanwhile, Rachel Fish has learned to live with the changes in her lifestyle. She says she will continue to work toward complete wellness and encourages others to do the same. She says she wants to do more creativity that will hopefully inspire others who are touched by cancer. In Cleveland, Tarice Sims, 90.3 WCPN News.

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