Written by: Jennifer Lane-Riefler Posted on: September 17, 2019 Blog: Jennifer says


Happy 60th Birthday Cancer Services of Grant County! 60 years is a very long time for a small grassroots not-for- profit to exist. On October 20th 1959 CSGC received our not for profit status. This agency, Cancer Services of Grant County (CSGC) has evolved over the past 60 years to fill the needs of this community. At the beginning we were The Community Cancer Unit of Grant County, then, the Grant County Cancer Society and in the 60's Cancer Services of Grant County. This agency is only in Grant County Indiana. Nowhere else in the world. At that time most folks didn't have health insurance, they didn't get colonoscopies, mammograms, chest x-rays or other diagnostic tests on an annual basis. Some still don't. Most folks went to the emergency room (ER) as a last resort due to excessive illness or pain. Medicine didn't have all of the diagnostic tools we have today to identify and diagnose people. Surgery was exploratory and the cancer was most often too advanced to remove. In the late 50's early 60's diagnosis was end stage and respite care was what we did. Most folks were diagnosed in the ER and never left the hospital. Those who were able to get home were cared for by family and friends. Hospice was not established in Grant County until the mid to late 90's although it was established in the US in the 70's. Treatments were harsh and ineffective at best, as the world knew very little about cancer at that time. CSGC helped families with in home support and by providing the supplies and equipment they needed to care for their loved ones. Our volunteers literally made bandages out of linen to provide to our clients. They also made woven protective mattress pads out of strips of newspaper that were available to folks as well. To rent a hospital bed or other equipment was and still is very expensive. We provided all of our time, supplies and equipment for free as long as our clients need it. We still do. In 1959 the United Way provided 99% of our income. We served a handful of people that knew where to find us. It was all word of mouth. Some of the money donated to CSGC was used to educate local individuals. One of our scholarship recipients was Mrs. Stephen Ott. She went to IU school of Medicine to be trained as a Cytologist. In fact she was the first Cytologist in Grant County and worked at Marion General Hospital.

Our first Executive Director's name was Donna Boyes. She served this agency and our community until 1990. During those 30 years not much changed in the cancer world. Folks were diagnosed late state and cancer was still considered a death sentence. Respite care and providing supplies and equipment was the bulk of our work. Eventually financial assistance was added to help towards medical bills and prescription costs. A few volunteers helped to transport folks to treatments as needed.

In 1990 our second Executive Director was hired, Jill Wildoner. Jill started right out of college and was the ED until 1999. She added a smoking cessation program, provided educational materials concerning the main cancers and continued providing equipment and supplies as needed as well as the financial assistance for medical bills and prescriptions. .

In 1999 I was hired as the Executive Director. With Teresa Weaver as my secretary I dove in head first. As a child in OHIO my uncle had been assisted by an organization similar to CSGC, the Mahoning County Cancer Society. I was new to Indiana and Grant County but, I knew what this agency was capable of. With a background in Health Sciences and Education I had my own ideas of what CSGC could provide to this community. My biggest hurdle was educating the community that CSGC WAS NOT and never was a local American Cancer Society. Folks were donating to a national agency instead of the agency that had helped them. This community has historically had high rates of cancer. I had big plans.

Times were changing and so were the needs of this community. Some folks had health insurance. And the healthcare community was encouraging folks to have yearly physicals, mammograms after 40 years old colonoscopies after 50 and other annual screenings. Medicare and Medicaid and some private health insurance companies started covering some of the cost of hospital beds. Most larger employers started providing health insurance to their staff. And, yet only 25% of women in grant county had health insurance and could afford a mammogram. There were no educational programs in Grant County concerning prevention, early detection for any health issues.

The first program I designed was our Community Health Education Program. This program provided education throughout the county on health, nutrition, early detection, risk factors for cancer and specifics on cancers. The Community Foundation granted us our first grant ever to support this program. With this grant we were able to purchase up-to-date educational materials and educational tools to provide specific cancer related education. This program has educated countless individuals in this community.

The BESS (breast education screening and survival) program came next. It was first funded in 2000. As of today this program has provided over 10,000 mammograms, educated over 90,000 individuals about breast health and breast cancer and diagnosed 62 women with breast cancer. The BESS program was the first program funded by the newly established Susan G. Komen Foundation of Indianapolis outside of Marion County. For the first time ever CSGC had 3 staff members. The grant paid for a part time staff member to facilitate the BESS program. Joyce Hostetler was hired to fill this position. She was a breast cancer survivor and had a passion to make a difference. In fact she co-wrote the grant to the Susan G. Komen Foundation with me as the then director of the local YWCA. The goal of the BESS program was to save lives one at a time. The BESS program actually "put CSGC on the map". This program was successful from the beginning. And, the folks that had never heard of CSGC before thought it only help breast cancer patients because of the BESS program.

in 2003 the Grant County Anti-Tobacco Coalition was established by CSGC. Indiana was 4th in the nation for smokers! 46 states had less smokers than we did. A Grant County task force was put together to determine how to proceed. 4th graders were our focus for education. This was an attempt to reach them and make a positive impact before they entered middle school.

In 2015 we opened the only Post Mastectomy boutique within 60 miles of Grant County to serve those who have undergone a mastectomy. The boutique serves women from surrounding communities as well as Grant County.

In the years since we have continued to evolve based on the needs of the community. We continue to provide financial assistance for medications, medical bills, transportation and supplies. We continue to provide needed medical equipment for home use. Our service to the client is comprehensive and includes patient navigation and starts during our intake process. We guide, educate, navigate, fill the gaps and ensure access to care to our clients. Today we are serving an average of 600 cancer fighters each year. My staff is small but mighty. We have all been touched by cancer personally or family. We have a heart and passion and care about our community and those fighting cancer are the reason we that open our doors each day.

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