The Vermont Cancer Survivor Network (VCSN) is a 501c3, not-for profit, organization founded in 2007 by cancer survivors to create a voice for cancer survivors in Vermont.
It is an organization run by survivors, for survivors. We have our roots in Vermonters Taking Action Against Cancer (VTAAC), the statewide coalition charged with creating a multi-year cancer plan. Until 5 years ago, planning was the exclusive domain of medicine, government and public policy organizations. It
’s focus was primarily on prevention and treatment with little attention to how cancer impacts the quality of life for people living with, through and beyond cancer. When cancer survivors were invited to participate in the planning, issues related to quality of life began to receive some preliminary attention. Early on in this process, Ellen Fein and David Cranmer, both survivors, recognized that survivors would need their own vehicle to move survivorship issues forward and so, a vision of an organization (VCSN) began to come into focus.
There are approximately 33,000 cancer survivors in Vermont. A VTAAC-supported study indicated that one of the primary issues affecting quality of life for Vermont survivors is locating and receiving support from other survivors. VCSN, starting out as an organization without any formal governance, had its first day-long planning retreat in late 2006 as the study results were being released.
Our initial program efforts were and still are focused on increasing support from survivor to survivor. Kindred Connections (KC), our survivor training and support program, is a little more than two years old. We have local groups of members in the areas of Chittenden County, Central Vermont, Franklin County, Lamoille County, the Mad River Valley, and Orleans County. We are suppported by a part-time contract person (Sherry Rhynard, a cancer survivor) who coordinates KC. We provide initial training to interested survivors. Each local group has its own training, support and education plan based on its needs. We train survivor members as trainers. We collaborate with professionals at hospitals and home health agencies to provide subject matter expertise for our training, to identify potential participants and to provide clinical support when needed.
We have learned that our training empowers individuals to tell their stories and to reach out in their existing communities and networks. KC meets a heart-felt need to “give back” and, at the same time it provides ongoing support to members who support others. For many of our participants, KC has provided a first opportunity to talk about their cancer experience. For survivor recipients, KC members offer supportive listening, a shared experience of someone who has been there, transportation to treatment, company at treatment and even lawn mowing!
Our experience demonstrates that we have barely scratched the surface of the interest and the need.
P.O. Box 42
Montpelier, VT 05601