Queens Library group mulls cancer’s ifs, ands & butts

Hillcrest resident Chander Iyer, who bravely wrote a book about his own battle with rectal cancer, was ready to lead a recent discussion about the topic at the Queens Library’s Pomonok branch.

Queens Library

Hillcrest resident Chander Iyer, who bravely wrote a book about his own battle with rectal cancer, was ready to lead a recent discussion about the topic at the Queens Library’s Pomonok branch but – unlike the group pictured – only one person showed up.

Turns out it takes more than a support group with a catchy name to get cancer patients to open up and talk .

Hillcrest resident Chander Iyer, who bravely wrote a book about his own battle with rectal cancer, was ready to lead a recent discussion about the topic at the Queens Library’s Pomonok branch.

But there was a problem only one person showed up.

“I was surprised,” said Sharon Banks, the library manager, who has been running a cancer-awareness group since 2007.

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She thinks part of the problem with Iyer’s program could be the title, “Pain in the Butt,” which is also the title of his book.

“Maybe if you’re a cancer survivor it brings back memories people don’t want to remember,” Banks said.

Iyer, 70, thinks others can benefit from his experiences and hopes the turnout is better at the next sessions, which are scheduled for Jan. 8 and Feb. 5.

An earlier program in which survivors dedicated the blocks of a quilt to those claimed by cancer, proved fruitful because the activity encouraged the participants to open up and discuss their feelings, Library organizers said.

An earlier program in which survivors dedicated the blocks of a quilt to those claimed by cancer, proved fruitful because the activity encouraged the participants to open up and discuss their feelings, Library organizers said.

“Everyone has a different story because every cancer is different,” Iyer said.

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Nearly one-third of the 62 branches in the Queens Library system host groups that provide people with information and resources about cancer.

The library began partnering with health-care networks and the American Cancer Society several years back on a long-term project to provide cancer screenings, education and support in underserved communities.

At the time, experts said residents in Queens had a higher rate of late-stage cancer detection when compared with the rest of the state. They also estimated the disease was claiming 68 borough residents each week.

One of the most successful programs was a cancer quilt, which also started in the Pomonok branch.
About 100 people helped make blocks for the quilt, completed in 2011, each commemorating a person lost to the disease.

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“While people were quilting, they were talking to each other,” said Tamara Michel, the community health coordinator for Queens Library. “People want to talk about these things.”

Hillcrest resident Chander Iyer bases his support group discussions on his memoir, 'Pain in the Butt'.

Courtesy Queens Library

Hillcrest resident Chander Iyer bases his support group discussions on his memoir, ‘Pain in the Butt’.

Michel noticed that many of the library’s cancer programs have led people to discuss their own experiences, and she thought that Iyer’s program would provide a venue for people to continue those discussions.

“People want to share,” she said. “They’re eager, but apprehensive.”

Iyer is not afraid to share. His book details his successful fight against rectal cancer, with which he was diagnosed in 2009. It describes his radiation and chemotherapy treatments, and the dozens of tests and procedures that were performed on him.

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While undergoing treatment, Iyer kept a diary and researched everything his doctors told him. And after doing all that reading, he decided something was missing.

“The books I read didn’t really portray what a patient goes through,” Iyer said. “I wanted to give people an idea of what it takes to go through this process.”

The “Pain in the Butt” program will run on Jan. 8 and Feb. 5, at 1 p.m. at the Pomonok Library, 158-21 Jewel Ave., Flushing. For more information call (718) 591-4343.

With Lisa L. Colangelo


Lifestyle – NY Daily News

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