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Heather Gibson, Cynthia Dalsing, Ann Tyree and Ginna Maus want to bring cancer treatment to the area

    Their efforts started approximately two years ago. Heather Gibson, a local resident who found herself diagnosed with cancer, believed that it was possible to attract the Susan G Komen Breast Cancer Foundation to support fund raising events locally. In the fall the “Race for the Cure” is held in Coeur d’Alene as a three mile run or walk event. Gibson concluded that energy and determination could get a “Ski for the Cure” event off the ground in Sandpoint, and this year Schweitzer will host the second (annual) event on Saturday March 2nd. The race is a personal challenge to see how many vertical feet you can accumulate between the hours of 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Tracking will be done by having skiers clock in their runs originating from Stella, Schweitzer’s six-person lift.

    The funds raised go toward funding mammogram screenings and breast cancer education in the five northern Idaho counties.

    March 1st, the Friday evening prior to the race, is a chance for skiers and non-skiers to gather at DeLuna’s where the Ski festivities begin. From 5-8 p.m. there will be a wine tasting and appetizers, as well as great raffle prizes and gift baskets. Any business interested in donating items or in-kind contributions should contact Cynthia Dalsing or Heather Gibson.

    Dalsing was a volunteer last year, and is one of the four women focused on seeing a Cancer Treatment Center come to fruition in Sandpoint. The other two women, Ann Tyree and Ginna Maus, working with Dalsing and Gibson, are no strangers to the subject matter, and good karma brings them together.

    Dalsing is a local nurse practitioner with her own practice in the Sand Creek Medical Building next to Bonner General Hospital. Maus is an experienced social worker with a counseling practice that focuses on family and child therapy. Tyree is new to the area with specialized experience in oncology. Ironically, she got Dalsing’s name from another local practitioner, when she called to say she was moving to the area, and had a desire to help develop an Oncology Center in Sandpoint. And Gibson is the source of energy that brings momentum to the dream.

    The concept of a Cancer Treatment Center was verbalized to about 170 women in late January when a "Women to Women” fundraising event was held at the Panida Theatre for Sharon Canary. Support for Canary came from many friends and members of the community through a silent auction, live music by Peter Lucht and Neighbor John, and vaudeville-style entertainment provided by a handful of good-spirited cross dressers (just kidding guys!). Clem Hackworthy and Dave Broughton of KPND presented “Sisters.” Paul Perry, Mike Winslow and John Knolls synched “You Don’t Own Me” and Tom Robideaux rocked the house with “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” The event was orchestrated by Canary’s long time friend Donna Deshon, who has worked on numerous charitable fund raising efforts, including support for Kinderhaven and The Festival.

    It was also announced that evening that the next Cancer Center fundraising event would be held on June 20th. Dubbed as a “Goddess Party” the event will be held at the Panida with a movie, food and a no-host bar. Although there is a fund raising theme and focus on breast cancer awareness, the objective of developing a Center is not limited to women or to breast cancer. The dream moves forward through a combination of education of the public on the necessity for a Center, negotiation for the skilled providers’ services, and identification of a suitable location for a comprehensive approach to providing support.

    Initially, this long-term project begins with the raising of seed monies and getting the word on the street. Dr. Alan Gosset, a doctor serving oncology patients at the North Idaho Cancer Center, has agreed to develop a schedule that would allow for patient consultations in Sandpoint. This opens the door to symptomatic care which does not require a large office space or much, if any, medical equipment.

    The long term plan is to house an array of complimentary care providers in one location, ranging from medical care to counselors, assisting cancer patients to cope with the enormity and complexity of learning their health is in jeopardy. The numbers are beginning to bear out the stark reality that cancer is a common health issue, even in smaller communities. Approximately 14-15% of the clinic’s cancer patients are residents of Bonner and Boundary counties. That translates to a growing population of people forced to commute for mandatory services—health services that are disproportionately consuming, requiring enormous amounts of personal energy, both physical and emotional.

    It will require the vision of women like Gibson, Dalsing, Tyree and Maus to shape the plan, but it will also require a very mature community response for a Center to move from the theoretical to the inevitable. The introduction of locally provided advanced medical services presents an opportunity for communities to reward themselves. Current medical service providers must take the initiative seriously. Community planners need to recognize the source of jobs such facilities can provide. The local hospital must be on board as a player and a supporter. When a community takes itself seriously, it plans for its development, its maturity and its creature comforts in much the same way a person or a family plans for retirement. If you don’t take your own needs seriously, then neither does anyone else. As our community grows and ages, our medical provider needs grow also. A Cancer Treatment Center is a win-win scenario no matter how you look at it, unlike so many other development projects. If we pledge part of our gasoline money to the “Ski for the Cure,” maybe we won’t have to drive as far for support.


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Carol Curtis

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