Giza: Help is here for  cancer patients

Joe Giza and his wife Mae, have had their share of health issues.

Mae has had to be treated for cancer this past year. When she first got sick with massive internal bleeding, it was a shock.

Mae was taken to Jefferson Memorial Hospital where she was given two pints of blood before being transferred to Turkey Creek Medical Center in Knoxville.

“She stayed for seven days,” Joe said. “They put a scope into her mouth and went to her stomach. She had a large ulcer that was causing the bleeding.”

Mae, who was a coal miner who went six miles underground at age 19, was discharged following a week. She is currently under the care of Amedisys with occupational therapy and nursing services while she battles stage 4 cancer.

Meanwhile, through Joe’s service in the Marines, the military authorizes 11 hours of healthcare a week for Mae, who is known in the community for her work with children at Russellville Primary and Intermediate schools.

The primary care social worker at the Veterans Administration Medical Center at Mountain Home requested aid and assistance on Mae’s behalf. The VA awarded 30% assistance, up to 32 hours a month at $400.

“I didn’t realize how much support is in the community,” Joe said.

Among Mae’s supporters is the Celebrate Life Cancer Support Group formed by cancer survivor Michele Sexton in 1999.

“I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999,” she said. “I went through surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. I know what happens when you get the diagnosis.”

Sexton was able to get through her ordeal, but realized that there were others that couldn’t.

“I had insurance and a supportive family,” she said. “I went to therapy with people who couldn’t do it. They couldn’t do 5-6 weeks of treatments. I promised God that if I got through this, I’d do something.”

Sexton put an ad in a newspaper about her plan to start a support group. In the ad, she said that anybody who had had cancer could come to her residence and talk. That was March 22, 1999.

“There were eight of us that day,” she said. “I asked if they wanted to start a group, they all said yes.”

When the group started, it was mostly for emotional support and information because most of the group knew what to do or where to go. A year later, the group started raising money.

“We started hearing stories about people coming in and discussing their financial problems,” Sexton said. “We passed a Styrofoam cup around to get a patient gas money so he could go to his chemo treatment.”

Sexton learned another thing about fundraising from a radiation oncologist, Dr. Joseph Myers.

“He said there are grants out there. He helped write grants,” she said. “The Susan G. Komen Foundation had community grants out there.”

Sexton wrote the first grant that the group received from the Komen Foundation in 2002.

“We got the grant, but in order to accept grants, we had to form a 501 (c)(3) organization,” Sexton said. “We helped more than 140 patients last year. On average we help more than 100 patients each year.”

One of the group’s main fundraisers is the annual Cruise against Cancer Car Show. This year’s rally will be held rain or shine from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday, April 24 at Newport City Park, located at 240 Smith Street.

The Cruse against Cancer Car show’s first show was in 2009. It raised $6.500 the first year. Last year’s show, held in June, raised $33,000. The show has raised more than $250,000 in its history.

“(The 2009 show) was the first real fundraiser we’ve had,” she said. “Last year $33,000 was raised. That is how we’ve been blessed. If I had known this in 1999, I would have said ‘You’re foolish.’”

All money will go toward the group and its help with families.

The car show was the idea of Newport-area car enthusiast Nathan Manning.

“The show is open to classic cars, collector vehicles, motorcycles, anyone who wants to bring over a vehicle to show that day,” Manning said. “There is no registration fee or admission fee.

“The cruise-in is for anybody who loves cars and hates cancer,” Manning said. “You can hang out have a good time and raise money. It’s a beautiful thing.”

Manning said that he couldn’t raise $33,000 for the group by himself.

“If I give so much and if I can get my friends and their friends to give, we’ll have the $33,000 raised,” he said. “Every penny raised goes back into the communities we serve.”

The Celebrate Life Cancer Support Group serves clients in Cocke, Jefferson and Sevier counties financially and provides snacks for cancer treatment centers in Morristown and Sevierville.

The group is an all-volunteers, in that there are no administrative fees or salaries, Manning said.

“What we do with this money, we try to meet the greatest needs the cancer patient may have,” he said. “Whether it be a utilities, groceries, money or gas cards for transportation. We have also facilitated construction projects to build handicap ramps on people’s house. Whatever keeps them awake at night.”

Funding has been used on everything from roof repair, tires, utility bills and other services that help patients at the time. Help is limited each calendar year.

Food for the cruise-in will be provided for sale exclusively by Uncle P’s BBQ. There will also be a live band, a silent and live auction and T-shirts will be for sale. No trailer parking will be available due to limited space.

For more information, call Manning at 865-548-6152.