Yul Brynner Head and Neck Cancer Screening: What a Day!

by Alma Owens

Months of planning for the Yul Brynner Head and Neck cancer Foundation screening at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, was in full swing at the dark and cold dawn of March 17th. Board members from the Georgia chapter of the Yul Brynner Foundation planned the day under the direction from the Hapners. Edie Hapner, speech pathologist at the Emory Voice Center, and Howard, her husband, again arranged our tent. We arrived just before 7am with medical supplies, printed brochures and lots of t-shirts. It was dark and cold. Quickly, everything was put into place, so that by 8:30, (daylight-but no warmer) when the first participants arrived, we were ready. Volunteers came from all over the city and were a smooth running machine, as appropriate for race day. We all wore bright blue t-shirts to identify ourselves. "Hawkers" went into the crowds and brought participants into the tent to be screened. They were greeted and given a one page history form to complete. Other volunteers guided participants into private examining rooms where a physician and assistant checked for signs of cancer on the face, mouth, throat and larynx. This year we had 6 rooms instead of the 4 we had last year. There was almost no waiting time. Some people who had positive findings were very upset. They were given recommendations to follow up with their primary care physician or an ENT. They were also given business cards for all of the volunteer physicians and dentists. They were offered the opportunity to speak with our wonderful cancer survivors who could say, "The same thing happened to me and I am fine!" All participants were given printed information on how to quit smoking or chewing tobacco. Those who passed the screenings left with peace of mind.

One of the highlights of the day was a visit by Mrs. Bobby Hamilton. You will recall that he was a beloved and respected driver in NASCAR. Bobby Hamilton was diagnosed with oral cancer just a few days before our screenings last year. Unfortunately, his diagnosis came late and Bobby passed away a few months ago. His wife expressed interest in the screening, and she came by and stayed with us a long time. She even joined a doctor in screening some participants. Race fans recognized her and were impressed; they became paparazzi to get photos of her. Youd have to be quite a journalist to put on paper the excitement surrounding a NASCAR race. It is a mult-sensory event. As you approach the racetrack, you drive through acres and acres of parking for cars, trucks and RVs. This is the biggest tailgate party you can ever imagine! The area surrounding the grandstands and track is filled with huge tents from a range of vendors: the Army, Navy, Caterpillar, Crown Royal, Sharpie pens, a karate school demonstration, Skoal tobacco, Nicorette, GE caulk sealant and of course, the Yul Brynner Head and Neck Cancer Founation. Each tent has a broadcast system with loud music and an announcer encouraging people to come participate in activities and contests. You hear cars warming up inside the track. You smell the barbeque, hotdogs, beer and yes, port-o-potties. Saturday was bitter cold with the wind cutting right through us. We left very tired and happy because the day went well and we had provided a service to so many people. For me, the highlight of the day was a conversion with a gentleman who approached the tent and asked to buy a t-shirt. I took his ten dollars and gave him the shirt. He explained that his wife is a three year cancer survivor. They initially had difficulty getting the correct diagnosis. Then finally they got the correct diagnosis and correct treatment. She is doing well. The gentleman said, "This is so wonderful, these people are so lucky to get good Information and have the opportunity for early treatment." Of course we gave the man his money back. He walked away with a smile, then turned around and came back, placing the money in our donation jar. He said, "Use this to help someone".