From staff reports
The Meridian Star
The Rev. George Pugh is one of many cancer survivors who has turned their experience with the disease into a mission to not only survive, but also to give back.
In his brief two years of remission, Pugh has started a support group and also has made it his prime focus to raise $50,000 for the Cancer Patient Benevolence Fund at Anderson Regional Cancer Center.
Diagnosed with colorectal cancer in fall 2010, Pugh immediately underwent a major operation.
"When you tell me you've had cancer, I know what you went through," said Pugh, who serves as pastor of Marion United Methodist Church and Wesley United Methodist Church on Highway 45 South.
"I had 28 radiation treatments, an operation at UAB and 12 chemo treatments," he said.
It was while receiving chemo treatments at Anderson Regional Cancer Center that Pugh noticed the financial needs of many other patients: gas money to get to and from the center for treatments, money to buy wigs and prosthesis and other things pertaining to their cancer treatment.
"I realized that not a lot of people were like me; they didn't have Medicare and a supplement, or any kind of insurance," he said.
Concerned, Pugh researched how he could help and learned about the Cancer Patient Benevolence Fund, which is set up to help patients with these needs. Raising money for the endowment became his prime focus.
Funding for future patients
The Cancer Patient Benevolence Fund has been around for many years and many fundraisers have supported this cause. Just this past year, more than 200 people have benefited from the endowment.
Pugh’s goal is to raise $50,000 for the benevolence fund to ensure it is available to help more patients in the future.
"It was in my calling to make sure they have enough money in that fund," he said. "It requires more money every year; the more money you have, the more good you can do for individuals."
As part of his commitment to raise money, he organized a T-shirt sale for the Meridian High School Class of 1962’s 50th Class Reunion. All proceeds from the sales were donated to the benevolence fund.
“I challenge other community organizations and groups to make donations to the benevolence fund when doing fundraisers," Pugh said. "Even small donations make a difference; if we all pitch in, we can reach our goal.”
Ostomy Support Group
Another way Pugh gives back is by leading a support group for ostomates, or people who have an ostomy.
An ostomy refers to the surgically created opening in the body for the discharge of body wastes. As a result of Pugh’s colorectal cancer operation, he had to have an ostomy, which is a lifestyle altering procedure.
“I knew there had to be other people in this area who were going through what I was, so I decided to start a support group so we could lean on each other,” he said.
The Ostomy Support Group provides a confidential, educational, caring environment for ostomates and their caregivers.
"We're a small group ... we share experiences and ideas and lifestyle comments," he said. "We have speakers, talk about products and things you can purchase to assist you with your lifestyle."
The group meets the fourth Monday of the month at 7 p.m. in the conference room at Anderson Regional Cancer Center. For more information, call (601) 917-6284.
Living life to fullest
Cancer-free, Pugh said he is thankful to all of those who supported him during his journey. During his operation, radiation and chemotherapy, his community of faith at Pachuta United Methodist Church was a big part of his support system, as well as family, friends, physicians and other medical staff members.
"When you have cancer, part of recovery is having a strong community behind you – that involves your family, friends, neighbors and community of faith. I had all of that," Pugh said.
"They were behind me 100 percent. A lot of the things they did for me – prayers, checking on me to see if I needed anything – was instrumental to my recovery."
-- from staff reports