OUR INSPIRATION After diagnosed with sarcoma, Tom Amschwand vowed to help improve life for families affected by cancer (specifically those affected by sarcoma). In addition to the need for better awareness and research funding for rare cancers like sarcoma, Tom saw a need for improved tangible support for all families seeking cancer care in Houston. Home to both the largest cancer center and the largest pediatric hospital in the world, Tom felt our city's programs for cancer families (including that of housing for sarcoma patients) should reflect that.
Tom continues to serve as the original inspiration for our work, but today so do the thousands of other cancer families we've come to know and serve since our original vision.
THE CREATION OF ASCF Because of Tom's vision, A Shelter for Cancer Families (formerly Amschwand Sarcoma Cancer Foundation) was formed to address the needs of families affected by cancer (specifically sarcoma) that were not already being met elsewhere. The need for appropriate housing for out-of-towners seeking cancer care in Houston has not kept pace with the need and many of the housing options available are insufficient to meet the needs of families. Even more, families affected by cancer often find it difficult to traverse the cancer landscape. Whether native or new to our area, patients and their families need guidance for the cancer journey that is both accessible and uncomplicated. ASCF believes patients & their families should be afforded options & dignity especially during times of health crisis.
WHY CHANGE? The most successful organizations including those in the nonprofit section must adapt as the needs of those we serve evolve and as new needs are identified. In 2017, after a needs assessment, ASCF's board of directors voted unanimously to focus our future efforts on providing tangible support to families affected by all types of cancer. It was our experience that while a family may present to us initially with a sarcoma diagnosis, later that same family may return with a different cancer type. We also began to recognize that families affected by other rare or difficult-to-treat cancers had needs similar to our sarcoma cancer families.
As for cancer research & awareness, the number of 'hands on deck' devoted to sarcoma research funding & awareness increased by 3300% between 2001 and 2018. As result, ASCF now aims to support our sarcoma colleagues in their work so that they can build upon the strong research foundation ASCF pioneered. By doing this, ASCF fulfills its original aim not to duplicate efforts provided by other organizations. This change further enables ASCF to ramp up our ability to provide even more tangible resources that are not otherwise available
HOUSING Housing for out of town families seeking cancer care in Houston remains the single biggest need in our area. As a result, ASCF made the choice to lead by example by providing housing to all cancer families, regardless of age, economic status, cancer type or treatment status. The critical need for housing in Houston for out-of-town families affected by all cancer types continues to grow and there is no coordinated effort to meet the need. We know this is one of the areas where ASCF can make the biggest impact going forward & we are committed to serving as a catalyst for creating partnerships which will allow us to expand our city’s capacity to serve out-of-town families seeking cancer treatment in Houston. For many families, especially those affected by rare cancers such as sarcoma, Houston’s high volume of cancer specialists offer families hope...but only if they have a place to stay. This year, about 150,000 patients will seek cancer treatment in Houston. 75% of them will be coming from outside of the Houston area. Where will they stay with their families? For how many will housing serve as a barrier to accessing the care they need? Board member & sarcoma surgeon Dr. Keila Torres said, "We know when someone gets cancer, the entire family is affected. Therefore, it is imperative that our housing meets the needs of families. Accommodations should allow for patients to be surrounded by their support networks as much as possible in order to maximize both healing and quality of life."
NAVIGATORS FOR CANCER FAMILIES Families served by ASCF also expressed the value of having someone whose "been there" guide them through the cancer journey. ASCF has been serving as a navigator for cancer families since its inception. It was a natural service that simply grew out of our volunteers' own cancer experiences. Today, it is officially part of our core mission. For those unfamiliar with the cancer terrain; the use of medical terminology, technical jargon and healthcare acronyms only add to the stress of a family already under pressure. ASCF's team of volunteer cancer family navigators help provide peace of mind to families under duress. Whether it is taking notes at a clinic appointment, holding a family member's hand while the patient has a procedure or helping to facilitate the communication between the family and the healthcare team, ASCF's navigators serve as valuable resource. This service is provided to any family seeking cancer care in the Texas Medical Center including Houston area residents as well as those coming from out of town. CELEBRATIONS DURING THE CANCER JOURNEY Cancer doesn't take a holiday or stop for a special anniversary or milestone birthday, but that doesn't mean the families we serve shouldn't celebrate. In fact, they often need to do so but don't have the bandwidth to make such celebrations a priority. This is why we have incorporated cherished moments during the cancer journey into part of our core mission. ASCF helps families celebrate what is important to them, whether it is a birthday, anniversary, wedding, holiday, first-day-of-school or "ringing the bell" to signify the end of treatment. We help create opportunities to both document and make cherished moments along the way possible. A Shelter for Cancer Families (ASCF) offers more than housing. we provide much needed tangible support to all families seeking cancer care in the Texas Medical Center and to those who travel to Houston for treatment, we offer a “home away from home” where their families can gather, create new memories & heal.