May 25, 2011

Online votes to decide grant to aid cancer patients

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Your vote just might make a big difference to Southern Illinoisans battling cancer and to Southern Illinois University Carbondale students who assist them, and the ballot won't cost you a penny.

Southern Illinois Healthcare’s Cancer Institute is in the running to receive a Cancer Transitions program grant from the Lance Armstrong Foundation’s LIVESTRONG program and public voting determines the grant recipients. The Cancer Transitions program would give physical, emotional and psychosocial support for the region’s cancer patients after they complete treatment. It also would function in concert with and as a feeder for the SIH-SIUC Strong Survivors program, an exercise and nutrition program for cancer survivors and caregivers, according to Phil Anton, SIUC assistant professor of exercise physiology and exercise program supervisor for Strong Survivors.

A grant from the Lance Armstrong Foundation provided the startup funding for the Strong Survivors program. Since it began in September 2005, it’s helped more than 190 cancer survivors and caregivers by improving their quality of life physically, mentally, and emotionally as demonstrated through physical assessments and questionnaires, according to Anton. He said more than two dozen students have assisted the program in a variety of roles, some for multiple semesters.

Immediately following a cancer diagnosis, people can join the Strong Survivors program. With SIH providing continued program funding, support and nutrition expertise, SIUC students assist those with cancer and their caregivers while acquiring practical, hands-on experience as personal trainers, exercise assessors and instructors. There’s also a benefit to those with cancer and to SIUC from the gathering of research data from program participants.

Anton said that although the Cancer Transitions program is a new and separate program, it can increase public awareness of and work hand in hand with the Strong Survivors program. In addition, if SIH can acquire the Armstrong Foundation grant funding to start the Cancer Transitions program, SIUC students could also potentially be involved in that program as well.

Online voting ends at 5 p.m. on May 31 and you can cast your ballot by going to and clicking on the “vote now” button. After you vote by entering your name and email address, you’ll find yourself on the Community Impact page but you don’t need to do anything there because if you scroll down, you’ll find a message indicating that your vote for Southern Illinois Healthcare already counted. People can vote once a day.

In applying for the LIVESTRONG grant, SIH noted that it serves 16 counties in the Illinois Mississippi Delta. Residents of the area have higher-than-average mortality rates and a higher likelihood of dying from cancer, cardiovascular disease and stroke than other Illinoisans. The application also notes the need for resources and tools to help those with cancer to transition to roles as survivors. Anton said the Strong Survivors program helps patients and their caregivers live happier, healthier lives while battling their cancer and the Cancer Transitions program would then help them with the transition to life after cancer treatment.

For more information about the Strong Survivors program and the services it offers contact Anton at 618/453-3116 (email or Tonica Anderson at SIH by calling 618/457-5200, ext. 67809 (email