Foundation looks to aid, educate cancer patients

STAFF PHOTO BY DEDE BILES The Savannah River Cancer Foundation’s executive director, Jamie Turner, wants to spread the word about the organization and the aid it offers.

When Jamie Turner was growing up poor, Superman was her hero.

“He was going to whisk me away, and I was going to change the world,” she said.

Superman never arrived, but Turner did meet the love of her life and got married. And even though she hasn’t had a global impact yet, “I am helping to make the world a better place,” said Turner, who is the executive director of the Savannah River Cancer Foundation.

Founded in 2003, the organization provides help to cancer sufferers who live in Aiken, Allendale, Barnwell and Edgefield counties. The Foundation also educates the public about and promotes the early detection and prevention of cancer.

“Because I come from a background of needing assistance, it has always been important to me to give back and to do something meaningful,” Turner said. “I’m 37 years old, and I’ve had two cancer scares already. In both cases, it was caught in time and I’m OK. But my experiences gave me an awareness of the disease that makes me want to empower people. Cancer can be prevented or treated earlier if they know about the warning signs.”

The Foundation works with different organizations to present programs relating to common cancers and distributes educational materials, including fact sheets with information about risk factors, warning signs, screening and diagnosis. The Foundation also provides speakers to various community groups about cancer screening and prevention.

In addition, the Foundation offers financial assistance to patients who have cancer with incomes within 200 percent of the poverty guidelines. The organization’s funds are used to help pay for cancer-related prescription medications and transportation to and from cancer-related medical appointments and treatments.

“One of the things that I love is that we don’t restrict where people get treatment,” Turner said. “They can get treatment anywhere. Right now we have patients going as far away as Charleston and Charlotte (N.C.). A couple of years ago, the Foundation helped someone get to the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas.”

The Foundation assists around 100 people each year and Turner wants even more to benefit from the organization’s aid.

“We know there is much more need out there than that, so one of things we’re really focusing on is expanding awareness of the Foundation,” said Turner, who began her work with the organization in February. “We’re getting out in the community, talking and making contacts with different doctors and hospitals in our four-county area so they can refer patients to us. We want to reach out as much as we can.”

Turner and part-time executive assistant Jenny Lind McRae are the Foundation’s only employees. The organization has a budget of “under $100,000” a year and has volunteer network with approximately 100 members, according to Turner.

“I did some research recently, and there is an American Cancer Society report that says there will be 27,000 new cancer diagnoses in 2013 in just the state of South Carolina alone,” Turner said. “That is going to trickle down into our area and there will be many more people who need help. I’ve spent the first few months acquainting myself with the Foundation, our policies, our procedures and the patients we currently serve. Now I’m getting things organized, and we’re ready to go. We’re building momentum.”

Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013. A native of Concord, N.C., she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.