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Interview with Teena Dixson, chairman of ‘Relay for Life’ of Greene County, TN

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June 13, 2014 is the date for the annual ‘Relay for Life’ of Greene County, Tennessee. Teena Dixson is the chairman for this year’s event.

Teena Dixson
Chairman/Online Chairman/Coordinator

Question: Teena, how long have you been the chairman of Greene County’s ‘Relay for Life’s annual event?

Teena: I was selected Chairman of Relay For Life of Greene County in 2013. I will be acting as Chairman through the 2015 Relay Event.

Question: As a breast cancer survivor/thriver, I’ve been attending this wonderful event since June of 2010. That was the year that I went through chemo, a double mastectomy, and radiation. What inspired you to get involved in this event?

Teena: Cancer has touched me in a big way. I've lost two grandparents, my mother and my husband to cancer. My husband passed in 2011 with Colon Cancer. I promised him that I would continue the fight we began together and do everything I could to get the word out about Cancer. My husband participated in one Relay Event. He loved it. It made him feel/know that he wasn't alone in his fight. So Relay was a natural choice for me.

Question: What is the theme for this year’s event? Why was this particular theme chosen?

Teena: Our theme this year is "Scare Away Cancer". :laughs: Our Event is scheduled Friday June 13th at 5pm. Being a Friday the 13th, we decided to have fun with that date. However, our meetings have been centered around conquering your fears. A Cancer patient knows fear like no other. We want them to know they are not alone in their journey.

Question: Can you describe the function of the many teams that take part in the ‘Relay for Life’?

Teena: We are looking to have a total of around 36 teams this year!! They work non-stop year round doing internal and community events to raise money for The American Cancer Society. Each one of our team captains and their members have a story, a reason they Relay. Greene County's Relay For Life Event is one of the Top Relays in the State and the country per capita. We have won many awards for our efforts in fundraising. We have a very special award to announce at this year’s event. We are so excited to share this wonderful news with our community!

Question: Are there ‘Relay for Life’ events in other parts of the country?

Teena: There are 5200 events nationwide every year. Plus Relay For Life events are being held in many different countries. A Relay in South Africa is our sister Relay.

Question: If there are people out there who would like to get involved in their local ‘Relay for Life’ event either this year or next, what steps do they need to take?

Teena: If you are interested in being a part of Relay For Life of Greene County, please sign up as a participant, team, team member, Survivor or Caregiver at www.relayforlife.org/greenetn.

Question: I find walking the Survivor’s lap so inspiring and touching. Which part of the ‘Relay for Life’ event do you like the best and why?

Teena: Oh my goodness. There are so many parts that I love. I do love watching and cheering for our Survivors and Caregivers. I'm always in awe of your courage and faith. I do love the Luminaria Ceremony too. I look forward to walking hand in hand with friends and family to honor those we've lost and those still fighting and surviving. In addition to all that I love staying all night! We always have activities to keep teams and participants moving! But we stay because cancer doesn't sleep, and for one night, neither do we.

Question: I remember when I first learned about this ‘Relay for Life’ event, I naively asked my cancer support group at Laughlin, “I’m still going through cancer treatments. Do I count as a Survivor?” They responded, “You’re alive. Of course you count.”

Please describe how a cancer survivor registers for this event, and what happens to and for them the night of the event?

Teena: Anyone who hears the words "You have cancer." is a Survivor. During our Relay we have a Survivor Lap, a victory lap if you will. It gives them time to spend together and celebrate LIFE! We have activities specifically for them and this year have a little something special, something personal for them. We also have our "Remember" or Luminaria Ceremony. During this ceremony we remember those we've lost and celebrate those who are fighting, and those who have won their fight. It's a beautiful time of reflection. Basically it's a time for Survivors to come together, be together and know they are never alone and that there are people that are fighting every day to beat cancer!

Question: You have several wonderful programs available for cancer patients. One of them is called ‘Reach to Recovery’. In a former e-mail, you have described this program in this way.

“We have Reach to Recovery, which is a volunteer visitation program that provides support and information for women facing breast cancer. Volunteers who have survived breast cancer are able to address personal concerns of the patient. Reach also provides support for caregivers of breast cancer patients.”

Is this program only for breast cancer patients?

Teena: Reach to Recovery is for Breast Cancer Patients and their Caregivers. These patients are contacted by other Breast Cancer Survivors to answer any questions and offer support for their coming journey. This program also offers support to Breast Cancer Caregivers as well.

Question: Is Greene County the only place that has a program like this?

Teena: Oh No! Reach to Recovery is an American Cancer Society Program. Most Counties all over the country will have this program available.

Question: How does a breast cancer patient connect with a ‘Reach to Recovery’ volunteer?

Teena: Patients should contact The American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345. They are there to answer the phone 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. They will put you in contact with the nearest Reach to Recovery or ACS program that fits your need.

Question: Another program you have available is called ‘Road to Recovery’. In that former e-mail, you described it in this manner:

Road to Recovery began a year ago in Greene County. Since then we have provided hundreds of rides for patients undergoing treatment that needed transportation. We provide transportation to patients who do not have a way to treatment. We take them to their treatment and then back home again. This is a volunteer program that is free to patients. Volunteers give their time and gas to help these patients. I can tell you it's been a rewarding experience for this team.”

That is an amazing service. Do you know of any other areas that have a similar program?

Teena: Again, many counties in the Country have this service available. Most of the surrounding counties of Greene have this program available. In fact, we've partnered with Washington County several times to transport patients to Johnson City Med Center.

Question: Your ‘Look Good … Feel Better’ program is one that I directly benefited from. In your e-mail, you described the program in this manner:

Look Good...Feel Better: This is also a free public service program that helps women and men, teenagers, children, etc. that are going through active cancer treatment, to cope with the appearance related side effects. LGFB in Greeneville meets the 2nd Monday monthly.”

I recall getting a free wig, a make-up kit, a hat, and a throw cover. I only used the wig when I had a storytelling performance to give. Otherwise, I mostly went around with a scarf to cover my bald head. I was so proud when the day came that I was in remission, my hair had grown back, and I could turn in my wig to help out a future patient.

If a patient lives in Greene County, how do they sign up for this program? If they live in other parts of the state or country, how do they sign up?

Teena: To sign up for this program or any Greene County ACS Program, patients should call 1-800-227-2345. Agents are there 24 hours a day to get you to the right program, assist patients with whatever questions they may have regarding their cancer diagnosis.

Question: In your e-mail, you described another service:

The American Cancer Society Patient Service Room in Johnson City, offers a service room with wigs, hats and scarves to patients at NO COST! Do you have contact information for this service?”

How does a cancer patient get in contact with this organization?

Teena: The Johnson City office of The American Cancer Society is 423-975-0635 or they can call 1-800-227-2345.

Question: Lastly, you described a program that sounds incredible:

The Hope Lodge: In Nashville, we have the Hope Lodge which is free lodging for those patients needing to travel to a cancer center to have treatment. ACS wants to make it easier for you to get the treatment you deserve by giving you a free place to stay.”

Is the Hope Lodge available to patients from any part of Tennessee? Is it available to patients from other parts of the country? Also, are there Hope Lodges in other places as well?

Teena: There are currently 31 Hope Lodges across the country. Nashville is one of the largest. Hope Lodge is available for Any cancer patient, ANYwhere that has to travel out of town for their treatment. This service is free! I can say that Nashville Hope Lodge is beautiful and spacious and conveniently located to Vanderbilt.

Question: If any cancer patients or caregivers need to find out more about any of these organizations and programs, who do they contact?

Teena: To find out more, patients and caregivers should call 1-800-227-2345. That number is magic I tell you. These agents can help you with many topics from losing your hair, to counseling, to programs offered, to helping with their insurance. Whatever a patient needs, they can find it at this number. There is no question too trivial. If you need assistance, help, don't hesitate to call.

Question: Do you have any final words to share?

Teena: This Greeneville/Greene County community continues to amaze me year after year with their support of our Survivors and Caregivers. We live in a compassionate community that knows the importance of coming together to fight an ongoing battle. The need of more of these programs in our community is growing! We have already assisted 1400 patients in this county this year. This is more than double than those at this time last year. We need more awareness to why more people are being diagnosed with Cancer. We need to come together now more than ever to conquer this disease in our community. I can speak for my committee and my teams and many of you Survivors and say we are in this fight to win it. We are all working for the day when the word cancer no longer means fear. Together we will continue to fight! Together we will win!

My thanks to Teena for taking part in this online interview and for all you do to contribute to the well-being of cancer survivors.

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