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Casey DeSantis announces a statewide cancer initiative for patients and survivors

 Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis unveiled the Florida Cancer Connect initiative at the Ackerman Cancer Center in Jacksonville on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022.
Raymon Troncoso
/
Florida first lady Casey DeSantis unveiled the Florida Cancer Connect initiative at the Ackerman Cancer Center in Jacksonville on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022.

Florida Cancer Connect is a statewide resource, consolidating informational resources like where to get specific treatments, navigating insurance coverage and quality of life management in a single website.

Florida first lady Casey DeSantis launched a statewide initiative in Jacksonville on Wednesday that aims to consolidate statewide resources for cancer patients and survivors.

Florida Cancer Connect, which lives primarily through its hub at FLCancerConnect.com, is a collaboration of the first lady's with the Florida Department of Health and the state Agency for Health Care Administration.

No state funding was appropriated for the project, which was done within the purview and funding already allocated to the two organizations, according to AHCA Secretary Simone Marstiller.

"This is what our agencies are here to do," she said.

Florida Cancer Connect, envisioned as a one-stop shop for Florida cancer patients and survivors, provides state-specific information on cancer prevention and research, tools to find care for specific diagnoses, assistance with navigating health insurance and resources for caregivers of people going through cancer treatment, as well as testimonials from cancer survivors and offers for support systems.

That's just what's available right now. DeSantis says there's more to come.

"We're taking all of these resources and putting them into one centralized location, so we're constantly building it," she said. "But we're looking at some of those things that you might not think about that you need, day-to-day items that help you get through your journey. For instance, if you have to buy a wig, or if you're looking for other things that might help with a surgery, where do I go? Where do you turn? That's going to be in there."

DeSantis recently overcame her own bout with breast cancer, having been officially declared cancer-free in March following radiation therapy and surgery.

Alyssa Castro, a survivor of Hodgkin's lymphoma, says the resources at Florida Cancer Connect will be a boon to survivors — and patients like her— to get the best treatment available. Castro was able to get a second opinion on treatment that she says was better for her situation thanks to a chance meeting with another patient at chemotherapy.

"Having those resources that the first lady is so gracious to put together for us is huge. And if you get the option to go to that website, do it and seek out all the help and build a support system," Castro said.

The current landing page of the website has four sections along with a tool for finding cancer care providers. The treatment section includes assistance with navigating coverage, including how to make sure treatment is covered by a patient's insurance, and how to dispute bills.

Florida Cancer Connect is also soliciting testimonials from cancer survivors for its Letters of Strength page, which DeSantis says she hopes will boost the spirits of those still fighting cancer.

Floridians who want to share their stories of surviving cancer can contact the initiative at survivor@flcancerconnect.com.

Copyright 2022 WJCT News 89.9. To see more, visit WJCT News 89.9.

Raymon Troncoso
Reporter Raymon Troncoso joined WJCT News in June of 2021 after concluding his fellowship with Report For America, where he was embedded with Capitol News Illinois covering Illinois state government with a focus on policy and equity.