An invaluable new resource for families fighting cancer opened up in East Austin Friday. It's called the LiveStrong Navigation Center.
For years, the Lance Armstrong Foundation has provided counseling to cancer patients either over the phone or through its website. But now, Austinites can get in person counseling for many of the ancillary issues facing cancer patients.
"It is all about your quality of life and making sure that not only people survive, but that they thrive," said Lance Armstrong, the LiveStrong Founder and Chairman.
The center will provide cancer patients a one stop shop of counselors.
"Along with cancer diagnosis come a whole host of issues that you never imagine having to deal with," said Katherine McLane, the Lance Armstrong Foundation Senior Director for Communications. "There are insurance concerns, financial problems, worries about keeping your job and questions about preserving your fertility if you want to have a family someday. What this center does is provide the place for people to come and drop those worries off."
Carlos Garcia, 25, appears too young to have cancer worries. But one look at the prosthetic leg that replaced a left leg riddled with bone cancer, and you can understand why his cancer concerns date back to high school.
"I think the biggest thing is not knowing what to expect," said Carlos Garcia, a two-time cancer survivor. "I mean I had absolutely no clue."
Just three years ago, Rocio Garza was a television news anchor in Southeast Texas. While doing a series about breast cancer detection, she learned she had a cancerous tumor.
"I was that person who didn't want to get any help, or who refused to think that anything like this would have ever happened to me," said Garza.
Reality soon set in for Garza and Garcia, who both now volunteer at the Lance Armstrong Foundation. They wish the Navigation Center had been there when they were fighting the disease. But they see their experiences as offering living hope.
"I do feel there was a bigger purpose for me going through those things and I'm just kind of on this journey I am on now," said Garcia. "It's kind of seeing it and seeing a bigger picture of things, and you get that answer later on down the road."
"We want those stories to come out of this Navigation Center, where people walk out and say, 'Here's what I walked in with and look at me today.'"
LiveStrong officials say the counseling is free, confidential, with English or Spanish speaking counselors and is available to anyone affected by cancer.