Category Archives: Home & Health

Many Helping Hands raises money for families in need

Photo: Many Helping Hands’ annual soup fundraiser brings people together in an effort to ease poverty. /Photo by Adam Stephens

Many Helping Hands held their second annual soup fundraiser featuring a soup tasting, door prizes, and a silent auction at CHRIST Church. The proceeds from the Oct. 10 event, more than $5,600, will help provide for families in need.

An Irving-based ministry, Many Helping Hands, was founded by Lana Hansen, who has experienced homelessness. The organization consists of ten churches of various denominations that work to help families in need by providing them with clothing, hot meals, and guidance in order to help them eventually support themselves.

“This is a cause very near and dear to me,” Hansen said. “I love that God is touching the hearts of people in Irving. All the denominations are working as a team for a common goal. It brings to mind a quote from the Bible, ‘Whatever you’ve done for the least of these, you’ve done for me.’”

Participants sampled each soup and voted for which one they felt was best. The winner was a taco soup made by Mindy from Northgate United Methodist. Afterwards, soup was served to all the attendees.

“I am extremely grateful to be participating in the second annual soup fundraiser for Many Helping Hands,” alternate secretary Stephanie Copeland said. “This event is a family friendly way to have a great time with our neighbors in Irving while supporting a great cause. Everyone I have talked to enjoyed the silent auction and the soup competition. This year’s event looks to be even bigger and better than last year’s.”

“It’s just amazing,” co-coordinator Sheila Slade said. “Jesus broke bread to bring people together, and that’s what’s happening here. God has showed up and showed out. There are more auction prizes this year than before, and it shows that more people are helping out other people. It’s just awesome.”

Many Helping Hands provides a variety of services for families in need in Irving. In addition to holding a dinner every Thursday for an average of 45 people, they keep track of a list of things that individual people and families need, such as clothes, shoes, working materials, tents, and hygiene products. They have a long-term goal of establishing a day resource center in Irving that would allow those without homes to shower, do their laundry, receive mail and receive assistance in developing skills to become working members of society.

North Texas’ first proton cancer center opens in Irving

Photo: At the heart of proton therapy, the cyclotron uses the alternating voltage magnetic fields on electrodes to produce a beam of particles with a constant speed and energy. /Courtesy Photo

With its innovative cancer treatment and patient-centered approach, The Texas Center for Proton Therapy recently opened at 1501 West Royal Lane in Irving. The $111 million facility, one of 15 proton therapy centers in the United States, will begin treating patients by mid-November.

“The DFW metroplex was the largest metropolitan area in the United States without a proton therapy center,” said Dr. Andrew Lee, medical director of Texas Center for Proton Therapy. “We are pleased to bring this life-saving cancer treatment to North Texas.”

The 63,000 square foot center with its three treatment rooms will be able to treat more than 100 patients per day making Irving a major cancer treatment destination.

With its proximity to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and Dallas Love Field as well as easy access to both Dallas and Fort Worth, Irving was selected as home to the Center for Proton Therapy.

“Irving is a perfect location for the center for many reasons,” Lee said. “It is conveniently located, and there are hotels and restaurants close by, but most importantly the city of Irving as a community is a huge support system for our patients. Our patients will be displaced for several weeks while in treatment and will need the support of a strong community like Irving.”

Proton therapy or proton beam therapy is a precise radiation therapy that uses beams of protons to irradiate diseased tissue, most often in the treatment of cancer. It is especially effective in treating cancers in sensitive areas and for children whose bodies are still growing.

In proton beam therapy, a particle accelerator is used to target a tumor with a beam of protons. The charged particles damage the DNA of cells killing them or stopping their reproduction.

“With proton beam therapy, we conform the beam to the shape of the tumor disrupting the DNA of cancerous cells,” Lee said. “The precision and accuracy of the beam reduce the amount of excess radiation minimizing the exposure of healthy tissue.”

The cyclotron, a magnet-packed particle accelerator, creates a proton beam that travels at two-thirds the speed of light through a 143 foot beamline which focuses and essentially steers the beam.

“It’s a 220 ton machine connected to a gantry with a height of 30 feet, and it rotates 360 degrees to enable precise positioning of the beams onto the tumor,” Lee said. “This is the largest pencil beam proton center in the state of Texas and its neighboring states.”

Proton therapy has been used in the treatment of tumors for more than 60 years, and the physicians and staff at the center have more than 70 years of combined experience with Dr. Lee as a renowned expert in this field.

Dr. Lee is the first physician in Texas to treat patients with proton beam therapy while at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. He began using conventional proton therapy in 2006 and then was the first to use the pencil beam in 2008.

Proton beam treatment sessions last approximately 15-40 minutes depending on the individual patient’s protocol with each beam taking one to three minutes. Patients may follow treatments with a number of services at the center such as nutrition classes or yoga or a visit to the healing garden.

“The Texas Center for Proton Therapy is a state of the art facility with cutting edge technology as well as a patient-centered approach to overall care,” Lee said. “It is just a tremendous center and the city of Irving provides the perfect infrastructure for our facility and patients.”

IBFA and IGCA honor cancer patients, survivors at Cancer Blitz Day

The Irving Boy’s Football Association (IBFA) and the Irving Girl’s Cheerleader Association (IGCA) held the first annual Cancer Blitz Day on Oct. 3.

While the IBFA and the IGCA have both acknowledged Cancer Awareness Month in October in the past by having their teams wear pink throughout the month, Cancer Blitz Day is the first time the two organizations have collaborated on an event specifically devoted to fighting cancer.

“This is about teaching our youth the importance of cancer awareness,” IBFA Treasurer Jeremy Thorn said. “I’m hopeful that the IBFA/IGCA organizations going forward will be able to hold events that will bring the community and our youth to rally around world issues. It’s our youth that hold the keys to move closer to a cure.”

During the event, the IBFA and IGCA distributed the 2015 Cancer Blitz Awards to various nominees submitted by friends and family members in honor of their struggles against cancer. One nominee, former IGCA coach Jennifer Britton, spoke about her personal experience with breast cancer. This year marks her third year as a breast cancer survivor.

“The reason we are here at this event today is a very serious matter,” Britton said. “We are here today to wage war against the enemy: cancer. This terrible disease reaches all of us, some directly, some indirectly, but all painfully. There is not one person in this audience today who has not been touched by cancer in some ugly way.”

Two young children were also present to share their stories. Diego Garza, a football player in IBFA who suffered from leukemia last year at the age of nine. Diego’s coach, Kenny Hernandez, presented him with an MVP award (a special football helmet) for “winning the fight” against leukemia.

“I was really scared and sad, because I thought I was going to die,” Diego said. “I just thought everyone who has cancer dies. But my doctor told me if I could stay strong and fight back, I could get better. When I got my medication, I was a little mad, because I didn’t want my hair to fall out. But I wanted to get better.”

Gabbi Gasca was afflicted by stage four cancer at five years old and is currently undergoing chemotherapy. Gabbi was named “Little Miss IGCA” for the day.

“We still have about fourteen weeks of chemo, but we’re going to beat this,” Gabbi’s mother, Betsy Gasca, said. “She’s my strong little girl, and she’s keeping me strong. I thank God, because one thing I learned through all this is you’ve got to be close to God.”

After the awards ceremony, many girls from the IGCA played a game of powderpuff football, while boys from the IBFA acted as cheerleaders and performed a halftime show. After the game, there was a balloon release in honor of patients who died from cancer.

Affording Fido: A cost checklist for a new pet

By Jason Alderman

Premium food, state-of-the-art veterinary care and creature comforts most humans would envy are now a regular part of life for many American pets. That’s why prospective pet owners should consider financial planning before bringing home a dog, cat or other breed of animal.

For those considering purchasing or adopting a pet, do thorough research first about what owning that animal will cost. The wide range of products, services and advanced medical options for American pets have pushed U.S. pet industry expenditures to almost $60 billion in 2014, nearly double the amount in 2004. With pet ownership tripling since the 1970s according to The Humane Society of the United States, it is no surprise that advanced pet products and services at high price points are making it very easy for many pet owners to overspend.

Prospective pet owners should begin their research with an idea of first-year costs. The ASPCA ( publishes an annual estimate for a variety of pets. Purchase and adoption costs may vary based on breed, so read as much as you can about a specific pet choice. Fortunately, virtually every kind of pet has an online presence, including sites for adoption and rescue. It’s particularly important to research the pet’s behavioral, care and health history and it might also be worthwhile to find a veterinarian who can offer additional insight about home and medical care.

Keep in mind that average pet costs, not counting additional spending for toys, treats or non-routine veterinary care, can be daunting. For example, the ASPCA currently estimates that a large dog may cost roughly $1,800 in his or her first year and $780 a year afterward. That doesn’t include potential bills for major illness or accident care that might run into the thousands. If that dog lives eight to 10 years, that means spending a minimum of between $7,260 and $8,820 over a lifetime. Many experts and pet owners are still debating whether it makes sense to buy pet insurance, ( and that is an option worth researching as well before a pet is purchased or adopted.

Many homeowners and renters should also check with their insurers for potential pet restrictions that may raise their premiums or risk voiding their coverage. In 2013, the Insurance Information Institute claimed that one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claims came from dog bites alone. Certain types of breeds may be considered higher-risk among some insurers, so before a pet purchase or adoption, prospective pet owners should check their home or rental policies to see how the animal will affect the pricing or availability of coverage.

Finally, certain kinds of pet ownership situations may call for estate planning. Some pet breeds – birds and tortoises among them – may live well in excess of 20 years. If a pet owner becomes disabled or dies, pets at any age may have an uncertain future if there’s no plan in place for guardianship, care and ongoing financial support. Estate planners have recognized pet trusts as a potential legal solution for this purpose. Pet owners of advanced age, with disabling illness or living alone might consider leaving such specific instructions for their animals in their will or advance directives.

Bottom line: With the potential costs of veterinary and other forms of care, pet ownership requires its own form of financial planning. It’s important to do thorough research on costs related to specific species and breeds before you buy or adopt.