Mission, History & Strategic Plan
The mission of the Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes is to create and sustain a community of support for people living with and affected by cancer.
Statement of Inclusion
The Cancer Resource Center seeks to serve all people living with or affected by cancer. Our goal is to create an inclusive, welcoming community in which the perspectives and needs of all those we serve are heard and respected.
A group of nine women (Joan Adler, Meg Ambry, Ned Asta, Andi Gladstone, Jackie Livingston, Nancy Lazarus, Anne McLaughlin, Ba Stopha, and Annie Wilson) began planning what would become the Ithaca Breast Cancer Alliance (IBCA).
IBCA became an organized, non-profit corporation.
First article in newspaper.
First support group.
Resource Center opened at 706 W. Green Street
First Walkathon raised $4,035.
First Tompkins County Quilters Guild benefit auction, “Quilted with Care,” raised $27,000.
Office moved to Women’s Community Building. Resource Center open three afternoons a week. Drop-in support group established.
Bob Riter writes about his breast cancer experience in Newsweek Magazine.
Resource Center hours expanded to five days a week.
The first “Plants for Life” sale sponsored by Ithaca Area Gardeners raised $12,000.
Andi Gladstone, founder and long-time leader of IBCA, steps down to become Director of NYS Breast Cancer Network, and Christine Sanchirico appointed executive director.
“Power Play for Prevention” begun by Sam Paolini of the Cornell Men’s Hockey Team with the support of Tompkins Trust Company.
Lower literacy breast cancer brochures developed in collaboration with Literacy Volunteers of Tompkins County.
First edition of IBCA E-News goes out to 50 readers.
Workshop on counseling persons with cancer held for area mental health professionals.
IBCA video, Because no one should face breast cancer alone, created by volunteers Baseema and Ward Krkoska, wins National Public Access Award.
New workshop offered to the community: “I need to take a month off: Cancer and your job.”
Hester Hill Schnipper, Chief of Social Work Oncology at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, presents a workshop for mental health professionals on “Facing the tiger together: Working with women with advanced cancer.”
IBCA’s first corporate campaign, chaired by Steve Garner, President and CEO of Tompkins Trust Company, raises more than $60,000.
A six-session education series is offered in collaboration with Hospicare & Palliative Care Services.
A grant from the NYS Department of Health begins a pilot program by which assistance is provided to Cayuga Medical Center patients at the hospital.
Mission expands to include gynecologic cancers and surrounding counties.
IBCA purchases 612 West State Street to serve as permanent home.
Shawn Galbreath becomes executive director.
IBCA’s new home is renovated with considerable assistance from local labor unions and support from local businesses.
IBCA moves into its new home on January 30, 2007.
Friday noon group for women begins.
Name changed to the Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes to reflect our service to everyone affected by cancer.
Ithaca Garden Club installs Victorian Garden.
First yoga class.
First water therapy class.
Bob Riter appointed Executive Director of Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes.
Lynda Myers Interior Design event “10 Steps to a Perfect Room” held at the Lake Watch Inn to benefit CRCFL.
5K Run added to the Walkathon.
Men’s Breakfast Club begins.
CRCFL writes “‘Now What?’ Life After Cancer Treatment” guide to survivorship.
First Young Adult Support Group.
First Annual Adventure Day for Men.
Collaboration begins with doctoral students researching cancer at Cornell University.
First group of volunteer financial counselors trained with the assistance of a grant from the Park Foundation.
Colorectal group begins.
CRCFL wins a “To-Go” Award (Town-Gown) from Cornell University for the innovative collaboration between CRC and doctoral students at Cornell who are involved in cancer research.
Bob Riter’s book, When Your Life is Touched by Cancer, is published by Hunter House and is distributed nationally.
Back porch reconstructed to make the building wheelchair accessible.
Downstairs bathroom renovated and made wheelchair accessible thanks to a grant from the Youth and Philanthropy Program of United Way of Tompkins County.
Monthly E-News is sent to more than 8,000 recipients.
Walkathon & 5K Run raises $184,000.
First CRC Golf Tournament held.
“One Funny Ithaca Story,” organized by Gary Stewart, gently pokes fun at Ithaca and raises money for CRC.
Caregiver group begins.
CRC “Cares about Kids” begins.
Wheelchair lift installed and back porch rebuilt thanks to Welliver Construction, HOLT Architects, and the SERTOMA Club of Ithaca.
Garage converted into three-season meeting space thanks to the JM McDonald Foundation.
CRC hosts local Cancer Moonshot summit in collaboration with national Cancer Moonshot summit under leadership of Vice President Joe Biden.
CRC wins second “ToGo” Award from Cornell for collaborating with Cornell’s Translator-Interpreter Program in developing “Cancer Cancer in the United States: Common Practices and Expectations.”
First Evening of Remembrance held to honor our loved ones.
Healing Garden dedicated.
First Multicultural Fashion Show held at the Kitchen Theatre on April 9.
by Bob Riter
Being diagnosed with breast cancer today is an entirely different experience than it was just 30 years ago. While partly due to advances in medicine, many significant changes are the result of what is termed the Breast Cancer Advocacy Movement. Looking back, you can see the movement arriving in two waves: the first wave, coming in the 1970s, took breast cancer “public” and presented the affirming notion that “It’s OK to have breast cancer: you don’t have to hide it.” There was a focus on developing less invasive treatments and on giving the patient control over treatment decisions. The second wave, coming in the 1990s and grounded in political activism, argued that, “It’s not OK to have breast cancer: we have to stop it from happening.” Earlier detection and better treatment were not enough – the goal must be the prevention of breast cancer.
Before the Movement
During most of the 20th Century, a woman diagnosed with breast cancer underwent a radical mastectomy. Decisions were made by physicians, and women often learned of their cancer diagnosis when waking up from surgery, absent one breast. A public discussion about breast cancer – especially your breast cancer – was unthinkable.
The first wave: It’s OK to have breast cancer: You don’t have to hide it.
The breast cancer movement began to take shape in the 1970s. Several important events both illustrate and helped create the early movement: 1) The book, Our Bodies, Ourselves, published in 1973 by the Boston Women’s Health Collective, provided valuable information and a sense of control over one’s own health and health care. 2) First Lady Betty Ford was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1974 and spoke about it openly. Many survivors took her cue and began talking about their own experiences, and other women had their first mammograms, believing that breast cancer may, in fact, be treatable and not a death sentence. 3) Rose Kushner began advocating for two-step surgical procedures: first the biopsy, and then surgical treatment a few days later, giving women time to come to grips with their diagnosis and to have some input into treatment decisions.
The overriding sense during this first wave was that women had the right to be active participants in their treatment decisions, and that women with breast cancer could speak out as survivors rather than stay hidden as victims.
Between the waves: HIV/AIDS and the emergence of political activism
The dominant public health issue of the 1980s was the emergence of HIV/AIDS. Political activism took on a key role as gay activists and others advocated for better treatment and increased research funding. Their activism ranged from quiet lobbying to “in your face” militancy staged to capture public attention. Breast cancer activists took notice.
The second wave: It’s not OK to have breast cancer: We need to stop it from happening
Some of the best-known national breast cancer organizations, e.g., the National Breast Cancer Coalition and Breast Cancer Action, and many local breast cancer support organizations, including the Ithaca Breast Cancer Alliance (now known as the Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes), were established in the early to mid 1990s. While these organizations, especially the local ones, fostered a sense of nurturing and mutual support, their underlying message was that it’s not OK to have breast cancer, and that political activism was required to bring about change. Activists decried the lack of understanding of what causes breast cancer, and the misrepresentation that early detection is the best prevention.
An “in your face” moment occurred when the model Matuschka dramatically exposed her mastectomy scar on the cover of the New York Times Magazine in 1993. The title, “You can’t look away anymore,” aptly captured this new dynamic.
This climate of political activism is perhaps best illustrated by the dramatic increase in the funding of breast cancer through the lobbying efforts of the National Breast Cancer Coalition. These efforts led to Congress channeling more than one billion dollars for breast cancer research through the Department of Defense.
A key event during this period was the publication of Susan Love’s Breast Book in 1990. This wildly successful book was a primary source of information for an entire generation of women diagnosed with breast cancer. For the first time, individuals were truly empowered to understand their diagnosis, their treatment options, and what to expect in the future.
Accomplishments of the Movement
- Two-step surgical procedures (as advocated by Rose Kushner) are the norm.
- Breast-conserving surgical treatments (i.e., lumpectomies) are offered whenever possible.
- Sentinel node biopsies have become the standard of care, reducing the risk of lymphedema.
- The concept of peer support is widely accepted and breast cancer support groups are available throughout the country.
- Physicians are generally more sensitive to the need for a quick turnaround of pathology reports and not letting patients unnecessarily wait for information.
- Many hospitals have established breast cancer centers that allow patients to meet with their surgeon, plastic surgeon, medical oncologist, and radiation oncologist in the same room at the same time.
- Advocates have a voice in the allocation of research money.
- The most aggressive treatment is no longer assumed to be necessarily the “best” treatment.
- Second opinions are widely accepted.
- Environmental toxins and other potential causes of breast cancer are increasingly studied and regulated.
In some cases, the changes were a direct result of the movement. In other cases, changes would have occurred in any event, but the movement likely speeded their adoption.
Bob Riter is a breast cancer survivor and the former Executive Director
of the Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes.