CCF CARE Teams 2023: Greetings From The Volunteer State

Have you ever wondered how Tennessee became known as the “Volunteer State”?

Well, it goes back to the War of 1812 and then again during the Mexican-American War of 1846, when so many Tennessee militiamen stepped forward as volunteers to support the country’s call to serve. The state has had a number of interesting nicknames over the years; however, “Volunteer State” is the one that’s lasted more than 200 years.

Volunteerism is still going strong in TN, as I witnessed last week. I had a rewarding journey from my home in Maryland to Nashville, TN, where I spent February 16th and 17th participating in a World Cholangiocarcinoma (CCA) Day Light It Green event, a meet-up with patients and caregivers, as well as a visit with Dr. Laura Goff at the Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center.

In collaboration with Claire Condrey, CCF’s Volunteer Coordinator, volunteers Debbie Rose (patient) and Patty Ritoch (caregiver) identified others with a connection to CCA in the Nashville area. They then invited those folks to participate in a casual meet-up and Light It Green event to celebrate World CCA Day. The Tennessee State Capitol Building and the Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge were lit green for the occasion. Becky Stapleton (caregiver), who attended the event, was also able to secure a World CCA Day Proclamation from the state.

It just so happens there were tornado warnings in the Nashville area that day, preventing several people from attending. However, those patients, caregivers, and supporters that could, participated in the meet-up and walked to the bridge for group photos. Everyone in attendance also indicated they would be interested in participating in future activities, helping to raise awareness for CCA and to connect. It was very gratifying to see the “Volunteer State” in action.

20230216_181150 Dave Fleischer
20230216_204516 Dave Fleischer

In preparation for the event, Debbie had created SWAG bags with CCF-related items and literature kits for everyone in attendance and distribution to future newly diagnosed patients or caregivers. Patty had also assembled CCF-related jewelry for inclusion in the kits.

The following day included two other activities of significance in Nashville. First, I had the opportunity to visit with Dr. Laura Goff in her office at the Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center. Dr. Goff is the Co-Chair of this year’s 10th annual CCF conference along with Dr. Chiara Braconi of the Beatson Institute for Cancer Research-University of Glasgow, Scotland, UK. Dr. Goff graciously allowed me to ask her questions about CCA and April’s conference (during video recording). We discussed a variety of topics, including the growing awareness of CCA, recent developments in global research collaboration, the importance of mentoring, benefits of interaction between patients/caregivers and medical professionals at the annual conference, topics to be highlighted at the conference, and several other topics; including her expertise as a Tex-Mex maker!

20230217_093250 Dave Fleischer

That afternoon, Debbie, Patty, and I visited several oncology centers in Nashville to distribute informational packets about CCA. Upon leaving the materials, we requested that doctors and their staff would provide these informational kits to patients diagnosed with CCA. One of the facilities we stopped at was the Sarah Cannon Cancer Center.

20230217_132310 Dave Fleischer

A little backstory… I didn’t realize that Sarah Cannon was the real name of comedian Minnie Pearl, who appeared at the Grand Ole Opry for more than 50 years and on the TV show Hee Haw during the ’70s and ’80s. After being treated for breast cancer at the founding center, she offered the use of her name to promote cancer research and patient education.

So, Mike O’Langio (The Mutations Matter character), my little travelin’ buddy from the CCF past, wanted to know what a grassroots movement is. When I shared that it’s a collective action from the local level to effect change at the local, regional, national or international level, I‘m pretty sure I heard him say, “Oh, so that’s why we’re in the Volunteer State!” While taking a picture of Mike O’Langio at Nashville’s Parthenon building (a full-scale replica of the one in Athens), I could tell he was thinking, “maybe everyone’s collective grassroots volunteer efforts will turn into something this big someday.”

20230217_134136 (1) Dave Fleischer
Buc-ee's Dave Fleischer

Well, I left Mike O’Langio (it’s okay, I have more) at the front of one of the Buc-ee’s convenience stores in TN for someone else to find. If you have never been in one of their stores, you have to stop if driving by. Their world records include having the world’s largest convenience store and longest car wash. This may be somewhat of an overstatement, but it’s like going to Las Vegas or New Orleans for the first time. You don’t know where to look first!

Oh by the way, if you’re traveling along I-40 in Tennessee and are looking for a quiet spot to spend the night, I’d suggest passing by Exit 287. I’ve never heard so many amped-up pick-up trucks outside a hotel room. On the other hand, if you’re a fan of NASCAR’s Craftsman Truck Series racing, this just may be the spot for you!

Give A Little Whistle!