Woman is heroine to cancer patients
Mention cancer and almost everyone will cringe. But when someone mentions the “C” word to Ann Proffitt, she is armed and ready to give them the best possible information and support.
An 8-year cancer survivor, Proffitt is dedicated to helping others, steadfastly believing that an informed cancer patient is no longer a victim. As the director of the Cancer Resource Center in Carson City, she is constantly exploring new resources and information to help patients and their families learn about cancer in general, and specifics about their individual cancer.
“The goal is to help people understand that there is a solution to every problem they are going to face,” said Proffitt. “And we are always exploring new avenues to help cancer patients locate the information they need.”
A Gardnerville resident, Proffitt was born and raised in southern California, and was, “kind of horrified,” when she and her family moved to the Carson Valley more than 30 years ago.
“We were visiting friends up here and my husband saw a lot that he liked,” said Proffitt. “I said OK, but it was so different from what I was used to. However, it wasn’t long before I started appreciating all that the area had to offer.”
Proffitt was the bookkeeper for several businesses in the Valley before opening her own bookkeeping business. She raised two children, became active in the community, and then breast cancer struck.
She learned first-hand the need for information as she battled her own disease. At first, she counted on family and friends to provide the support she needed. But as she fought to beat the odds, she realized that she needed information – information that would help her understand the disease, reveal treatment options that she could discuss with her doctors, and provide answers to many of her questions.
n Sense of independence. “Being informed provided a sense of independence for me, while enabling me to stay close to my family and friends – my support systems,” said Proffitt.
Six months after being diagnosed, Proffitt became involved with a support group.
“It saved me,” she said. “It gave me a sense of direction. I didn’t know who I was, where I was going. The support group did so much for me that I’ll do anything I can to give back.”
Proffitt became involved with the Carson Advocates for Cancer Care and worked with other cancer support groups. People called her and she would visit them, providing pamphlets and brochures that she carried around in the back of her car.
“I began to question why nothing was out there for cancer patients in our area. It was spread out, resources weren’t centralized,” Proffitt said. “Books that were available to us were outdated, our information was old, and the American Cancer Society in Reno was too far removed. It was scary.”
Proffitt’s concern about the fragmented support and information carried over to her job in the lab at Carson-Tahoe Hospital, where she came in contact almost daily with cancer patients. When support or intervention was needed with cancer patients, staff members called on her.
“Then the hospital purchased the Adams House. The plan was to demolish the building in favor of more parking, but several colleagues recognized a better purpose for the building,” said Proffitt.
The plan was to turn the Adams House into a center where cancer patients could obtain information, do research, and conduct support group meetings. Proffitt joined a campaign committee to save the house and raise money to restore it.
“When we walked into the Adams House, it felt like we were coming home, and we knew that that atmosphere would make it a wonderful home base for a information and research center for cancer patients,” said Proffitt. “Then it was just a matter of convincing the hospital’s administration and board of directors.”
The success was apparent at the February 2000 grand opening of the Cancer Resource Center, a centralized clearinghouse for information, in February 2000. The center includes a research and lending library, computers to access the Internet and 4 volunteers who help patients and their families complete the tedious task of accessing the information.
n Survivors. “The volunteers weren’t chosen that way, but all are cancer survivors,” said Proffitt. “Knowing that is supportive to many of the patients who come in here.”
Between 25 and 30 patients visit the Adams House every month, and Proffitt said that families and friends are welcome.
“Our research deals with good, valid, clinically proven information, and our information base is constantly growing. It is also branching out into other concerns, as well as other cancer topics,” said Proffitt.
Pain management, hospice issues and care, support and information for caregivers, Proffitt said that the Cancer Support Center tries to address any issue that cancer may touch. The center also refers patients who may be having problems with medical bills or other cancer related problems, working closely with the Carson Advocates for Cancer Care.
“Thank goodness for the Carson Advocates, “said Proffitt. “Since we’ve opened, I’ve sure we’ve inundated them with referrals. But they are always there with help.”
n Rewarding life. Although Proffitt now works full time at the Cancer Resource Center, she continues after hours to provide assistance to cancer patients. She is a certified facilitator and meets with several cancer support groups. Her personal life is busy as well, as she enjoys a full and rewarding life.
“Scuba diving was my passion before I got cancer, and it still is,” said Proffitt. “I even tried to dive while I was undergoing chemo.”
She enjoys whale-watching trips to Baja Calif., takes tap dancing lessons in Carson City and works alongside her husband, Ron, restoring old British cars and motorcycles.
“I have my circle of friends who are dear to me, and my gardening,” said Proffitt, who says that she now feels that she is in control of her life.
“As a cancer survivor I learned that cancer patients have to make their own decisions. I’ve been through that process – I understand it. My job now is to help others get that information – to get to them to the place where they are informed patients and survivors,” said Proffitt.
Cancer Resource Center
The Adams House
990 N. Minnesota St.
P. O. Box 2168
Carson City, NV 89702
Toll free: 1-877-CTH-CNCR (284-2627)
Cancer Support Groups
(For all cancer patients)
First and third Tuesdays at 7 p.m.
Contact Ann at 782-3919 or Vicki 882-0798
Coping Together for Breast Cancer Survivors
Second Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Contact Ann at 782-3909 or Vicky at 882-0798
Carson Prostate Cancer Support Group
Second and fourth Thursdays at 7 p.m.
Contact Dave at 882-5264
All Support groups meet at the Cancer Resource Center, 990 N. Minnesota St., Carson City.
Carson Advocates for Cancer Care
808 E. College Parkway
Carson City, Nev.