To mark World Cancer Day, LIVESTRONG® today announced a new initiative to help cancer survivors facing exceptional challenges. Jose Antonio Ventura, a bone cancer survivor and resident of East Austin, and his family have been selected as the first recipients of the new LIVESTRONG Survivor Support Initiative to receive special assistance from the Foundation.
“LIVESTRONG is committed to improving the lives of people affected by cancer,” said Doug Ulman, LIVESTRONG president and CEO. “Through the new Survivor Support Initiative, the Foundation is deepening its commitment to families affected by cancer and demonstrating the impact a community can have when collaborating on a shared mission. We look forward to working with our friends and partners in the Central Texas area to improve the Venturas’ quality of life and their ability to thrive in spite of cancer.”
The Ventura family represents the growing Hispanic population in the United States. Cancer rates for Hispanics are projected to increase by 142% by 2030, compared to 45% for the overall U.S. cancer incidence. Hispanics, who as a demographic tend to have lower incomes, less education and less insurance, have lower survival rates for most cancers, which may reflect less access to timely, high-quality treatment. LIVESTRONG has recently expanded its outreach to the Hispanic community in an effort to close the gap in the health disparities for Hispanics diagnosed with cancer.
In August 2010, Jose Antonio sought support from the LIVESTRONG Cancer Navigation Center for a number of practical and financial obstacles related to his illness. As the Foundation learned more about him and his family, their neighbors in the East Austin community, they realized the Venturas were faced with overwhelming challenges that were being precipitously worsened by Jose Antonio’s illness.
For the past 16 years, Jose Antonio has made a living by working manual labor jobs — sweeping parking garages and streets and working in kitchens. His hands tell the story of his hard life. A year after being diagnosed with bone cancer, Jose Antonio suffered a stroke. He is currently receiving chemotherapy at Brackenridge Hospital. He is no longer able to work because of his illness and that loss of income makes life even more difficult for this family.
Maria, Jose Antonio’s wife, is now the only bread winner in the family. She works in food service making less than $20,000 a year to support a family of five, but wants the best for her children and is determined to give it to them.
Gustavo, the couple’s 17-year-old son, is wise beyond his years. In addition to caring for his father, he is also helping to care for his niece, two-year-old Zurayma, and nephew, five-year-old Miguel, both of whom the family recently adopted. Gustavo could have taken a paying summer job to help support his family but instead volunteered alongside LIVESTRONG staff assisting with outreach to the Hispanic community. Though it seems the odds are stacked against him, he manages to excel in school. His hope is to graduate from high school early and gain a scholarship to attend a special academic program at the University of North Texas in Denton.
As LIVESTRONG staff assisted Jose Antonio, they learned that the Ventura family home is in a state of extreme disrepair. Because of mounting medical debt related to Jose Antonio’s treatment, the family cannot afford badly-needed repairs which include window replacements, plumbing upgrades, basic home security and a kitchen renovation. Through the Survivor Support Initiative, LIVESTRONG plans to help the Venturas achieve a better quality of life by renovating their home with help from corporate partners and community organizations.
LIVESTRONG is the brand of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, created in 1997 by the cancer survivor and champion cyclist to serve people living with cancer and empower communities to take action. The Foundation specializes in free, bilingual patient navigation services that help cancer survivors and their families overcome the insurance, financial, emotional and practical challenges that accompany a cancer diagnosis. The Foundation also offers no-cost referrals in English and Spanish to free cancer screening resources throughout the U.S. through its website, LIVESTRONG.org, and toll-free number, (855) 220-7777.
The goal of the LIVESTRONG Survivor Support Initiative is to help a cancer survivor who has received support from the LIVESTRONG Cancer Navigation Center or LIVESTRONG‘s navigation services in the past year and is dealing with overwhelming challenges. Each year on World Cancer Day — February 4 — the survivor selected for special assistance will be introduced and the results of that assistance will be presented on LIVESTRONG Day — October 2. LIVESTRONG will provide updates on the progress of this effort throughout the year. Anyone interested in donating to this effort can do so at LIVESTRONG.org/SurvivorSupportInitiative.
LIVESTRONG serves people affected by cancer and empowers them to take action against the world’s leading cause of death. Created as the Lance Armstrong Foundation in 1997 by cancer survivor and champion cyclist Lance Armstrong, the organization is now known publicly by its powerful brand — LIVESTRONG — and is a leader in the global movement on behalf of 28 million people around the world living with cancer today. Originating with the iconic yellow wristband, LIVESTRONG has become a symbol of hope and inspiration to people affected by cancer around the world. Since its inception, the organization has raised $450 million for the fight against cancer. For more information, visit LIVESTRONG.org.