Soon after having a double mastectomy last year, Iris Dent got the further devastating diagnosis that the cancer had reached her lymph nodes.
“I was more or less shocked,” said the St. Rose resident. “I couldn’t believe this was happening to me.”
Dent had already endured her diagnosis of breast cancer, which left her one day to decide what to do.
“I opted for a double mastectomy, which I didn’t need, but did it for peace of mind,” she said. “What happened during the process … I got more disturbing news.”
Dent’s world became a series of surgeries and chemotherapy that extended her recovery, and resulted in her being laid off from her job. Her heath insurance ran out three months later that required she apply for Medicaid.
But her troubles continued with the financial distress that came with loss of her vehicle that required buying another one, a delay in getting unemployment and medical expenses.
“I can’t explain it,” Dent said. “It was one thing after another.”
Family, friends and associates all rallied to her aid, including a friend who searched for sources of help for her.
“The world is not as sympathetic at times, but there is hope and resources out there for people who need help,” Dent said. “All these services have been a blessing.”
She found the Cancer Association of Greater New Orleans (CAGNO).
“They were a complete source of help to me by helping me with rent assistance, and they gave me gift cards for expenses,” Dent said. “It has been a blessing for me ever since.”
CAGNO became part of the overall help she needed to deal with a condition that she said was beyond her control.
“I think they’re awesome,” she said. “They’ve been a great help to myself. I think it’s a great organization.”
CAGNO aims to assist cancer patients and their families by providing support that will enable them to continue their treatment, often times when the patient has exhausted their own resources during their fight.
Executive Director Tammy Swindle said cancer rates in St. Charles Parish are generally average in the nation, but still above the national average for some cancers.
The parish ranks 43rd in Louisiana’s 64 parishes for new cancer cases, but it has the 47th highest death rate on a per capita basis, Swindle said. The highest forms of cancer in the parish include lung, colon, breast and pancreatic.
Founded in 1958, CAGNO is a nonprofit United Way partner that promotes “cancer survivorship” through education, patient services and research, she said. Its mission is to assist local cancer patients and their families by providing support that enables them to continue treatment in its 13-parish service area that includes St. Charles Parish.
For Dent, the group is a blessing.
July 12 was a very special day for her.
“It’s one year cancer free,” she said. “All the glory and honor and praise goes to God.”