Breast cancer survivors sought as peer counselors

By Katy Thurston – Fayette Regional Health System

The cancer journey can be overwhelming, from diagnosis through treatment.

With this in mind, not-for-profit Pink Ribbon Connection and Fayette Regional Cancer Center are teaming together to help give breast cancer patients the support they need through peer counseling.

The public is invited to a special breast cancer peer counseling training session and a bonus educational presentation at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the Fayette Regional Health System education classroom, 1941 Virginia Ave. Dinner will be provided. Those planning to attend should RSVP.

Those attending will have an opportunity to tour of Fayette Regional Cancer Care Center, inclu

ding a look at the new linear accelerator that offers state-of-the-art radiation therapy with pinpoint precision.

Peer counseling training is for breast cancer survivors who have been out of treatment for at least one year, and are interested in becoming a counselor for women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Training will be led by Christine Ward, Ph.D., a professional psychologist who specializes in working with breast cancer patients and their families. At the training, former breast cancer patients will learn how to serve as a support system to patients currently going through treatment. Peer counselors provide breast cancer patients with a sympathetic ear, support and information from the perspective of someone who’s been there.

Dr. Ashwin Vasudevamurthy, specialist in hematology and oncology with the American Health Network, will lead a bonus presentation about metastatic breast cancer, also known as Stage IV or advanced breast cancer. The presentation will provide a better understanding along with the latest treatment options.

Judy Smith, professionally known as Dr. Judy Risch, OD, has received her treatments at the Cancer Care Center. She has agreed to be a spokesperson for the Cancer Center and its peer counseling program.

“My first diagnosis was in 2009. I went into remission and then was diagnosed in May of 2015 with Stage IV breast cancer,” Smith said.

Smith said that the Cancer Center has been nothing but amazing to her, and she wouldn’t go anywhere else. She found out about the center when her brother-in-law was diagnosed with Stage IV prostate cancer, and did treatments at the center for 10 years.

“He received excellent care and I don’t think you can get better care anywhere,” Smith added.

Smith continued, “I think more people need to be aware of what Fayette Regional offers. The Cancer Center here is a valuable resource, and I think it is underutilized. So many people travel out of town to Richmond, Indianapolis or other locations.

“Basically, once you are diagnosed, the treatment is typically the same,” Smith said. “You start with a standard protocol of treatment which can be offered anywhere. I don’t understand why patients want to travel round trip three hours or more for something that is unpleasant to go through anyway.””

Smith welcomed the chance to speak on behalf of Fayette Regional Cancer Center.

“I thought this would be a great way to help other people. I feel like being a cancer patient myself I am a spokesperson wherever I go. I always try to encourage and remind them to stay positive. I also promote my faith as a strong aspect of why I am still doing as well as I am,” Smith explained. “It always helps to help those who come after you, those who are facing treatment for the first time. I remember people who helped me along the way, and I would like to help others who are facing cancer.”

Outside of treatment and being a full time optometrist, Smith loves to read a lot and spend time with her friends and family.

Cancer not only affects the patients, it also affects the staff.

Fayette Regional Cancer Center RN and Connersville native Tiffany Tuttle is grateful for the Cancer Center and how far it has come.

“The new counseling service holds a special place for me because my mother is a breast cancer survivor. It would’ve been beneficial to her had there been these resources available at that time. I find it a privilege to be able to work in my community and know a lot of the patients and have a local connection.”

To learn more about breast cancer peer counselor training or to sign up to participate, call Tiffany Tuttle at 765-827-8000. To speak to the executive director of Pink Ribbon Connection, call Dori Sparks-Unsworth at 317-255-7465.


The Pink Ribbon Connection and Fayette Regional Cancer Center are offering a breast cancer peer counseling training session and an educational presentation at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the Fayette Regional Health System educational classroom, 1941 Virginia Ave. Dinner will be provided.

If planning to attend, make reservations by calling Tiffany Tuttle, 765-827-8000.

For information about Pink Ribbon Connection, call Dori Sparks-Unsworth, 317-255-7465.