HURRICANE – Child, adolescent and young adult cancer survivors and their families across the state are encouraged to participate in the West Virginia Pediatric and Young Adult Cancer Alliance, a new initiative of the Walking Miracles Family Foundation.
The unique community-based program will educate cancer survivors and their loved ones about the long-term side effects of cancer treatments and how survivors can achieve optimal health in the years to come.
“Our West Virginia families will now have what my mom and I never had,” said Brett Wilson, founder and CEO of Walking Miracles. “As a survivor of childhood and adolescent cancer, I understand that these young people and their loved ones urgently need help and guidance as they adjust to surviving cancer. That is what our new alliance is designed for.”
The alliance is made possible by a $45,000 grant from the Highmark West Virginia Charitable Fund for Health, which awards programs and initiatives specifically focused on the health, well-being and quality of life of West Virginia residents.
Walking Miracles provides survivors with navigational programs designed to increase their knowledge of their disease, understand their treatment options, and learn about the lifelong implications of their treatment choices. The nonprofit also helps patients communicate effectively with their clinical care teams and provides assistance to families with travel, food, and lodging costs while seeking treatment.
Walking Miracles will collaborate with Dr. Patricia D. Shearer, the founder of Patti’s Place Vital Pediatrics for Complex Kids in Atlanta, to help make the alliance a reality. She will serve as the Alliance’s Director of Survivalship.
A licensed pediatric oncologist and pediatric palliative medicine physician with an extensive background in survival program development, Dr. Shearer consult with cancer survivors and work with individuals and family members to coordinate care in their local communities. She is registered by the State of West Virginia Board of Medicine as a telehealth provider.
“Our approach is characterized by a unique process of education through telehealth according to the guidelines of the Children’s Oncology Group. It then helps them arrange follow-up with a primary care physician near their home,” said Dr. Shearer.
The West Virginia Pediatric and Young Adult Cancer Alliance is a prototype program that Dr. Shearer across the country can be customized.
“We believe our efforts can become a national model to raise awareness of the challenges young cancer survivors face and empower them to promote health as they move forward with their lives,” she said.
The founder of the Walking Miracles Family Foundation said the new alliance will immediately benefit state families who often feel overwhelmed caring for a loved one who has cancer.
“It’s a game-changer in West Virginia, especially for the rural areas. The alliance will help answer critical questions, guide survivors as they age, and connect them to primary care facilities,” said Brett Wilson. “Launching an innovative program led by an experienced survival expert like Dr. Shearer is a great addition to Walking Miracles.”
Kacie Owens of Walking Miracles will play a key role in the West Virginia Pediatric and Young Adult Cancer Alliance, as a nurse navigator. Ms. Owens, Pediatric Nurse, has experience working with pediatric oncology patients during their active treatment and survivors who have experienced long-term adverse events.
It’s all about educating the cancer survivor, Ms. Owens said.
“Long-term side effects are a huge part of cancer survival. We hope that by partnering with patient treatment facilities, primary care providers, Walking Miracles and Patti’s Place, we can ensure that cancer survivors are fully aware of their personal risks to long-term effects and help them receive preventive and effective care,” said Ms. Owens.
James L. Fawcett, Jr., president of Highmark West Virginia, praised Walking Miracles for his foresight in entering into the alliance.
“It is humble and rewarding to partner with so many organizations that are moving the needle every day in improving the health and well-being of West Virginians. This charitable fund empowers us to work together to improve the quality of life for so many in need in our communities,” said Mr. Fawcett.
The Walking Miracles Family Foundation staff is delighted to see this project kick off.
“This is really a passion project for all of us! We are all thrilled to be able to provide this vital link to families in West Virginia. Personally, I can’t wait to see it grow and help more and more people,” said Ms. Owens.
For more information about Walking Miracles or the West Virginia Pediatric and Young Adult Cancer Alliance, visit walkingmiracles.org.