New website to connect Macon, Russian cancer survivors

alopez@macon.comNovember 21, 2013 

Macon residents in collaboration with residents of Ulya­novsk, Russia, developed a website to help connect cancer survivors and caregivers in both cities.

Local founders of StandTogether, the organization that sponsored the project, presented at a news conference at Macon City Hall Thursday. They spoke about the website and connected with a co-founder and cancer survivor in Ulyanovsk, a Macon sister city, via video conferencing.

Steve Farr, vice president for enrollment services at Wesleyan College, is one of the StandTogether founders.

“No one, regardless of geography, should fight cancer alone,” Farr said. “The objective of StandTogether is to provide an international forum and community, to share, support, encourage and strengthen one another in our global fight against cancer.”

Sergey Chernokov, an information technology specialist at Wesleyan, built the website. It features inspirational stories, a private peer support messaging service, a public forum and links to partners and resources. Health professionals and support groups will also be able to take part in video conferences. All features are available in both English and Russian.

From Ulyanovsk, where it was night and the temperature was freezing, Sergey Panchenko and Igor Statenina, participated in the news conference.

“We want to greet you from Russia,” said Panchenko, a cancer specialist who helps run a 400-bed cancer center in Ulyanovsk.

It’s very important for people fighting cancer to connect to each other, he said, struggling slightly with his English.

Statenina, whose daughter graduated from Wesleyan, was diagnosed with large cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2007.

He said he was fortunate to have family and friends to support him during that painful period.

“At that moment, all I needed was care, attention and love for me to keep on fighting,” he said.

Statenina said he considers the StandTogether website very important.

“The opportunity to share your fears, share your wishes, share your knowledge and hopes is invaluable,” he said. “This is what the newly created website is about.”

The StandTogether website is live. Chernokov, who grew up in Russia and has lived in Macon for the last decade, said he will be tracking traffic so that Stand­Together partners can best promote its use.

“We really hope to get the community involved,” he said.

Chernokov said the idea for the website came from Farr.

“He’s our brain, heart and engine,” he said.

Farr, a cancer survivor and Macon Sister City committee member, has visited Ulyanovsk several times in the last decade. He said the cities often exchange delegations, with Wesleyan students visiting Russia and Ulyanovsk students graduating from Wesleyan.

“It’s one thing to have a sister city agreement,” he said. “It’s another thing to take that agreement and build on it.”

Farr said the website is a first step in a larger mission. He wants to form a nonprofit foundation to provide funds for cancer survivor programs in both cities.

StandTogether’s partners and resources include The Medical Center of Central Georgia, Equal Right to Life, the Movement Against Cancer and Ulyanovsk Regional Clinical Oncology Center.

“Thank you for this invaluable opportunity to take part in the first press conference in the history of our two sister cities,” Statenina said. “That’s what makes history. I hope we’ll meet again.”

“We will,” Farr said.

He said goodbye in Russian. “Dasvidaniya!”

To contact writer Andres David Lopez, call 744-4382.

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