By Anastasia Sonneman, Program Specialist, NACHC-Community HealthCorps®, with stories from Community HealthCorps AmeriCorps Members, Noor Tell & Amy Ly
Cervical Cancer is the second most common cancer affecting women throughout the world. In the U.S. alone, over 12,000 women are diagnosed each year, a third of whom die as a result. Fortunately, this type of cancer is highly preventable with the help of regular screenings and follow-up care. A factor making January’s Cervical Health Awareness Month such an important cause to highlight. To do just that, we’re sharing two stories of Community HealthCorps AmeriCorps members who support women’s health as a part of their service, including promoting the importance of cervical cancer screenings. Both Noor Tell, who serves with our Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program team, and Amy Ly, with our William F. Ryan Network team, have discovered a passion for preventive health and, more importantly, for the patients and communities they serve.
“It is seven in the morning on a Saturday. The morning is brisk and the sun is starting to peek out, slowly lighting up the sky. The hallways of Boston Healthcare for the Homeless Program, the health center where I serve, were bustling with ladies patiently waiting for the annual Women’s Health Fair. As a second-year Community HealthCorps AmeriCorps member, I had participated in this event last year, and although I was still nervous, my nerves were soon replaced by excitement as I saw ladies walk through the doors and into the lobby. I saw women from Pine Street Inn, women I have encountered in my health education groups, and ladies that I say hello to every day in passing. Throughout my service, I had built relationships with these women, and today was a day to celebrate them. As the fair proceeded, ladies crowded the many health tables we had set up, such as Narcan training, Hep C education, Oral Health, vaccinations, mammogram and pap smear sign-up, tobacco cessation, and much more.
My role was to educate participants on the importance of cervical and breast cancer screenings and motivating them to sign up for the same-day mammogram and pap smears available through the health center. Throughout the course of the day, I met a handful of breast cancer survivors, many of them having battled cancer while experiencing homelessness. They spoke of their battle with strength, as if cancer was the easiest of barriers they have conquered. Moments like these remind me how special it is to honor the individual stories of our patients and how thankful I am the simply cross paths with them. That day, we were able to get 25 ladies screened for cervical and breast cancer. I cannot think of a better way to spend a Saturday morning!”
-Noor Tell, Community HealthCorps AmeriCorps Member
2014-2016 Boston Health Care for the Homeless Team
“These past three months as a Community HealthCorps AmeriCorps member at the William F. Ryan Community Health Network has made me realize a lot. My role focuses on outreach and enrollment for the Cancer Services Program (CSP), providing uninsured patients’ access to breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer screenings. Every encounter with a CSP patient is delightful; many of them thank me for assisting with appointments and case management.
One of my most memorable moments happened recently while enrolling a returning CSP patient. During our one-hour consultation, Ms. W, who was able to detect pre-breast cancer because of this program, exclaimed:
‘I don’t understand how you can do all of this; it is amazing. Thank you so much. I would not be here if it wasn’t for this program and for people like to you help guide me through this.’
When I heard her say this, it hit me just how much I genuinely enjoy the
interactions with my patients, especially knowing that I can make their day a little bit brighter by helping them better manage their health and potentially mitigating such a health risk, like cancer. After all, living in New York City is expensive, often adding to the difficulties many face with maintaining a healthy lifestyle or gaining access to health insurance and other health-related benefits. Hearing the stories of my patients and the barriers they face has enhanced my desire to treat others with compassion, respect, and kindness. My experience with the CSP has also encouraged my decision to work in family and preventive medicine as a Physician Assistant. I foresee continuing this growth of becoming a better person, both personally and professionally.
-Amy Ly, Community HealthCorps AmeriCorps member
2015-2016 William F. Ryan Network team
To learn more about how you can join the fight against Cervical Cancer, visit the American Cancer Society.