2020 threw us for a loop—as it has the world.
We are here for you and ever ready to help with the additional burdens that the pandemic places on those with an anal cancer diagnosis.
Even while COVID has changed our lives, anal cancer diagnoses have not stopped. In fact, research published this year found that anal cancer is parallel with liver cancer as the fastest-accelerating cancer in the United States.
Despite these difficulties, we have heard beautiful stories of kindness and support from doctors and patients. Thank you to thrivers who volunteered to mentor newly diagnosed patients through our Peer to Peer Support Program. Thank you to the oncologists who provided outstanding care to their patients. Thank you to our partners, such as Marcia Cross and Pixar Animation Studios, who are fighting with us to shed light on anal cancer.
Please take a moment to look back on highlights of our progress from this year. Through it all, we have been touched by your support and honored to continue serving our community. We remain focused on ensuring that individuals facing anal cancer are not alone and have the resources they need to thrive during and after anal cancer.
We are proud to raise our collective voices on behalf of anal cancer thrivers. We partnered with other strong advocates such as the Society for Women’s Health Research to share the anal cancer patient experience with the medical community and work toward improving patient outcomes.
Our partner Marcia Cross continues to spread the word about anal cancer awareness. Each time Marcia declares, “we all have an anus!”, she takes another step further in dismantling the stigma associated with this cancer.
We are grateful to all advocates who are making their voices heard, whether it’s within their own families or on a global scale. Do you have a story to share about how you are making a ruckus in your own community? Please let us know!
Our Peer-to-Peer Support Program is operating at full steam, with over 75 thriver and caregiver matches made, and almost 100 new registrants from this year alone. COVID has been hard on many people. Unfortunately, anal cancer thrivers and their loved ones, whether they have managed cancer for a long time or are experiencing a new diagnosis, are uniquely impacted by this pandemic.
If you are seeking an empathetic connection at any stage of your cancer journey, sign up for the Peer-to-Peer Support Program. Trained and compassionate volunteers are available to provide general support, share their experiences, and listen to their thriver peers as those who have “been there.”
Organized by an anal cancer thriver and in partnership with UCSF’s Anal Neoplasia Anal Neoplasia Clinic Research and Education (ANCRE) Center, we, alongside 175 thrivers, researchers, medical providers, friends, and loved ones, took part in a pre-release screening of Disney Pixar’s Onward.
The evening raised over $80,000, split evenly between each organization. Funds will be used to directly benefit the much-needed anal cancer programs, trainings, and advocacy of both ACF and ANCRE. Marking a milestone, this was the first corporate event to exclusively benefit anal cancer and another step in our aim to make sure that this disease gets the recognition it deserves.
Honoring Those We’ve Lost
This year has brought so much loss, and the anal cancer community has experienced its share. This year, we lost Jeffrey Tilmon and Michele Longabaugh, dearly beloved thrivers and strong community advocates.
Jeffrey was a kindhearted soul and lover of techno music and dancing. He was a supportive peer to many other men seeking advice and a warm and understanding shoulder to lean on, serving for over 5 years as a mentor in our support program.
Michele was a fierce proponent for improving the patient experience, known for her cheeky sense of humor and for being unabashedly outspoken about the need to represent the voices of thrivers in all aspects of research, treatment, and care.
They will be remembered for their humor, kindness, and unflagging desire to make anal cancer stigma a thing of the past. We honor Jeffrey, Michele, and everyone we lost this year.
Our mission to eliminate HPV Cancers has expanded to Europe where the virus causes 90,000 cancers annually. We partnered with the European Cancer Organisation to create the HPV Action Network with a joint vision of ending HPV cancers across the continent. Specific 2020 achievements include:
- Launching a major new report: Viral Protection: Achieving the Possible. A Four Step Plan for Eliminating HPV Cancers in Europe. The report sets out how to realize HPV eradication by building on solid practices already in place in many European countries. Its central recommendation is that the European Union should commit to the core goal of matching and exceeding the WHO Global Strategy for Cervical Cancer Elimination, and implement policies and strategies to eliminate all cancers and diseases caused by HPV.
- ACF co-founder Tristan Almada presented on the role of civil societies in the mission to prevent HPV Cancers at the European Cancer Summit. This is a leading European Parliament event that brings together leading oncology experts, patient advocates, politicians, and policymakers to discuss the main issues impacting cancer policy.
- Working with key stakeholders involved in Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, including EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides and the European Parliament’s Special Committee on Beating Cancers, to address HPV cancer.
Our site has always been a place where we share updates and stories from the community, but this year we have amplified our offerings in order to better serve you, our friends and thrivers. Popular pieces have included an update on pelvic floor physical therapy from guest blogger Dr. Allison Romero, caregiver Jerry’s experience of being a peer mentor, and Dr. Ashish Deshmukh’s insights on the events that drove him toward a career researching anal cancer and its eradication.
But we want to do more! To that end, in November we ran a community-driven survey about the information we provide. We were so touched that hundreds of you shared your experiences and thoughts with us. The insights you have shared will help inform the services and information that the Anal Cancer Foundation provides, and ensures that anal cancer thrivers and their loved ones have the facts and resources they need to take care of themselves.
Through the highs and the lows, we are grateful that you are in this fight with us. We are looking ahead with optimism to 2021 and to creating more change, hand-in-hand with you, our anal cancer community.