LORETTO - Cancer affects many people, and St. Francis University students and faculty members are doing their part to raise awareness of the deadly disease.
"Cancer affects one in three people, and that is a number we are fighting to reduce," said Jessica Carter of York Springs, a junior physician's assistant major and chairwoman of the university's annual Relay For Life, which ends at 10 a.m. today.
Carter said 374 people registered to participate in the event, which has a goal to raise $48,000 to promote cancer awareness and research.
St. Francis University sophomore Emily Cook checks assistant professor Art Remillard as he portrays being a cancer patient as part of “The Illness Experience: A Mile in Their Shoes” project Saturday afternoon in Padua Hall. (Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski)
During the relay, SFU's newest outreach program Make A Patient Smile is presenting "The Illness Experience: A Mile in Their Shoes."
It involves two university professors and a student acting as patients with cancer to raise awareness. The three are required to lie in a hospital bed for 24 hours. Each was diagnosed with a different type of cancer. The patients are being monitored by 15 health science students acting as physicians' assistants, physical therapists, nurses and doctors.
The event stemmed from a narrative medicine class taught by Art Remillard, assistant professor of religious studies.
"We wanted to experience this ourselves and share the experience to see what it is like to be confined to a hospital bed and the stigma of wearing a hospital gown," he said. "We want to remind people they are dealing with people. The experience of illness is very wide ranging."
Stephen Baker, assistant professor of psychology, said his sister, Kathy Biffenger, died two years ago of breast cancer.
Baker focuses on breast cancer as part of his research.
"My area is health psychology with an emphasis on breast cancer survivors," Baker said. "I have always been interested to get their side and help people understand what it is like."
Cancer has impacted the families of several of the students - members of Remillard's class - participating in the event.
Lisa Moser of Mars, a sophomore physician assistant major, said her mother had ovarian cancer but had surgery six years ago and has been in remission.
Her mother's experience with cancer played a role in her decision to go into the health care field.
"The happiness of healing through the health care ... that is way I wanted to get into the health care field," Moser said. "There is a lot more to it than the cancer and the tumor."
Jessie Helgert of Meadville, a sophomore occupational therapy major who acted as one of the cancer patients, said her grandmother and great-grandmother had breast cancer, and her grandfather died from bile duct cancer.
The project provided a good experience for the students.
"We thought it was a good project to do to help us understand what patients are going through so we can take better care of them when we become medical professionals," said Christina Claar of East Freedom, a sophomore physical therapy major.
"I think it is great experience to raise awareness and see what patients have to go through on a daily basis. This is about treating the patient like a person and not just as an object," Moser said. "Relay For Life is a great experience. It is very important to raise awareness that it is a terrible disease that affects a lot of people."