Serpil’s Story of Help and Hope

July 24, 2014

After her husband Lance was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer at age 36, Serpil struggled with how to help her young children cope. “Lance was diagnosed when my daughter Seylan was five and my son Cole was two,” shares Serpil. “The relationship that they had with him was unbelievable. They were so close, so I knew that I needed to find them any type of help. I knew I needed to move and move fast.”

Their daughter Seylan began attending face-to-face counseling sessions with an oncology social worker at CancerCare’s New Jersey office located close to home. “She absolutely connected to the social worker. My husband also needed support and participated in counseling sessions by phone.”

Four years after his diagnosis, Lance passed away. Serpil once again set out to find additional resources to help her children process their grief. “CancerCare was always in the back of my mind. There was a comfort level there, so I reached out when I heard about the Healing Hearts Bereavement Camp.”

Serpil and her children attended CancerCare’s Healing Hearts Bereavement Camp during the summers of 2013 and 2014. The Camp, located at Malibu Dude Ranch in Milford, PA, offers a healing retreat for families coping with the loss of a loved one to cancer. The weekend combines fun activities such as swimming and horseback riding with therapeutic grief activities. The annual free retreat is made possible by dedicated supporters at Eisai.

Releasing a butterfly in Lance’s memory at the Healing Hearts Bereavement Camp

“What really touched me was seeing so many kids, who all shared a similar journey, in one place where they could just be free,” recalls Serpil. “I found the camp to be a refuge for them – a happy place. The kids stay in touch through social media and it gives them a sense of community. Very few of their classmates have had that same experience, so it helps them to have peers that understand.”

The family is now focused on healing by keeping Lance’s memory alive. “Every day presents new challenges and new hopes. You learn to live with the loss and you find comfort in memorializing a loved one. I’ve found it important to embrace amazing organizations like CancerCare. They serve as an outlet and an opportunity to connect and to remind us that we are not alone.”




Understanding Palliative Care

July 11, 2014

Did you know that palliative care helps people at any age and any stage of cancer? Palliative care is specialized medical care for people with serious illnesses. It focuses on providing you with relief from the symptoms, pain, and stress of a serious illness like cancer.

The goal of palliative care is to improve quality of life for both you and your family. You can receive it along with your curative treatment. The palliative care team of doctors, nurses, social workers and other specialists will work together with your other doctors to provide an extra layer of support.

To get palliative care, ask your doctor for a referral. CancerCare has resources to help you learn more about palliative care and you can also visit Get Palliative Care for additional information.


Finding Support for the Cancer Caregiver

July 7, 2014

If you are helping to care for a loved one with cancer, you are a “caregiver.” It can be an incredibly rewarding role, but it can also take an emotional and physical toll. You need support, too.

Some caregivers find it difficult to ask for help. You may feel embarrassed or like you’re imposing on others. But getting help is important—for both for you and the person you are caring for.

The website Help for Cancer Caregivers was created especially to help you take care of yourself, while you take care of your loved one.

CancerCare client Kathryn opened up about her caregiving experience after her husband was diagnosed with melanoma. “One of the biggest challenges that I was facing as a caregiver was feeling the need to be ‘on’ all the time, feeling that I had to be the one who remained strong and healthy. I was surrounded by people who loved both of us and supported us, but there was no one in the room who really understood what I was going through.”

To be the best caregiver for your loved one, seek support and information from others. Caregivers who receive help report feeling less isolated, anxious and depressed. And, having a community of support can free up their time and help them maintain their physical and emotional well-being, which in turn makes them better able to care for their loved one.

“Some of the most important things to keep in mind while caring for a loved one is that it’s important to listen to them and give them a safe space, but also to have them listen to you and let them take care of you a little bit sometimes,” shared Kathryn.

Help for Cancer Caregivers is a unique collaboration of organizations with a shared goal of improving the health and well-being of the people who care for people with cancer. CancerCare has additional resources dedicated to helping you cope, including support groups, publications and podcasts. For additional help, reach out to one of our oncology social workers by calling 800-813-HOPE (4673).


Families Remember Loved Ones at CancerCare’s Healing Hearts Bereavement Camp

June 26, 2014


Thirty families recently joined together to spend the weekend at CancerCare’s Healing Hearts Bereavement Camp – a retreat for those coping with the loss of a loved one to cancer. The camp combines fun activities such as swimming and horseback riding with therapeutic grief activities.

“The camp is a place where the families can come together and not feel different. They meet others who have experienced a similar loss and they don’t have to explain anything to one another; they can just come together and have fun,” said Kathy Nugent, MSW, LCSW, CancerCare director of social service. “There are a lot of tears, but there is also so much laughter. They’ve all found new friends – people that understand. Our hope is that they all made a lasting connection.”

This year’s camp featured a butterfly theme, focusing on metamorphosis and healing. Families were given the opportunity to create butterfly collages honoring their loved ones and ended the weekend with a ceremonial butterfly release.

The sixth annual camp was held at Malibu Dude Ranch in Milford, PA from June 13 through June 15. The free retreat was made possible by our dedicated supporters at Eisai.

You can view more photos from the Healing Hearts Bereavement Camp or watch a video of the song, “Fly Butterfly Fly,” written and performed by Meaghan Farrell, Andy McNamara and teens at the camp.


How Technology Is Transforming Cancer Prevention

February 20, 2014

The field of oncology is constantly redefining treatment approaches and options to improve the standard of care for people everywhere. In a field that is rapidly making innovative advances, we are fortunate to stay aware of new discoveries in oncology through modern technology.

February is National Cancer Prevention Month, the perfect time to recognize how developments in oncology, coupled with technology, have impacted the lives of people living with cancer, caregivers and health professionals. A person’s geographic location or financial situation are no longer barriers. Mobile apps and health-focused websites allow instant access to topics such as cancer screenings, research updates and risk factors.

A prime example is simply picking up the telephone and joining one of CancerCare’s Connect Education Workshops. Whether participants listen to a live or archived Connect Education Workshop, they will hear compassionate experts in oncology provide the latest medical advances from the convenience of their own home or office. The comprehensive educational workshops have evolved with technology to include a webcast component, accessible online via podcast, and telephone replay.

CancerCare’s easy-to-read fact sheets and educational booklets, written by experts, can be ordered online, over the phone or viewed on our website. Like all of CancerCare’s services, our workshops, fact sheets and booklets are free of charge. 

In recognition of National Cancer Prevention Month, we encourage you to visit CancerCare’s workshop and publication webpages for up-to-date information from leading experts in oncology. The first and foremost step to cancer prevention is knowledge.


Guest blogger Sarah Quinlan is the Senior Education Technical and Marketing Coordinator at CancerCare.

Get Help With Caregiving Tasks This Holiday Season

November 22, 2013

Holidays are meant to be joyful times that create good memories. But for caregivers of people with cancer, it can be challenging to keep up with the preparations that often come with celebrating holidays along with juggling caregiving responsibilities such as taking a loved one to treatment. Many times, friends and community members may want to help out, but are unsure of where to begin. is an online tool created by Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals in collaboration with CancerCare to help caregivers create their own community of support. The tool allows caregivers to coordinate volunteer activities such as cooking meals or transporting a loved one to appointments. My Cancer Circle™ also provides a private space where members can offer words of support and encouragement. To learn more about My Cancer Circle or to create a community to support a loved one facing cancer, visit

Learn how to create a community of support from leading experts by listening to the podcast, My Cancer Circle: A Support Network for Caregivers. You can also read our fact sheet, “Building a Community of Support.” Order free copies online at

You may also find it helpful to review our resources on coping with cancer and caregiving during holidays and special events.

CancerCare provides free services specifically for caregivers, including support groups (available face to face, over the phone, and online), publications and Connect Education Workshops™. View all of CancerCare’s free services for caregivers.

My Cancer Circle: A Support Network for Caregivers

July 20, 2013

Caregivers provide important emotional and physical care for a person with cancer. Their responsibilities may include helping a loved one with daily activities such as getting to the doctor or preparing meals. They may also be tasked with managing finances and paperwork while keeping up with day-to-day family and work responsibilities.

Many times, friends and community members want to help, but are unsure of where to begin. is an online tool created by Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals in collaboration with CancerCare to help caregivers create their own community of support. The tool allows caregivers to coordinate volunteer activities such as cooking meals or transporting a loved one to appointments. My Cancer Circle also provides a private space where members can offer words of support and encouragement.

To learn more about My Cancer Circle™ or to create a community to support a loved one facing cancer, visit

Learn how to create a community of support from leading experts by listening to the podcast “My Cancer Circle: A Support Network for Caregivers.”

CancerCare provides free services specifically for caregivers, including support groups (available face to face, over the phone, and online), publications and Connect Education Workshops.

View all of CancerCare’s free services for caregivers. My Cancer Circle is a trademark of Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?: Young Adults as Long-Distance Caregivers

June 15, 2013

Young adults in their 20s and 30s can undoubtedly feel overwhelmed when a parent is diagnosed with cancer. Many have limited experience with caregiving, and may feel unprepared for their new role. And young adult caregivers who have relocated far from home to pursue a career or start a family may face even more challenges.

Ultimately, the question many young adults providing care from a distance grapple with is, “Should I stay or should I go?” It’s a difficult choice to make: Young adults may end up feeing guilty if they choose to “stay” in their current location, or feel obligated to “go” while making difficult sacrifices.

The decision to provide care from a distance or relocate closer to home to care for a parent often leads to feelings of uncertainty and isolation. For some young adults, relocation may not be financially feasible. Social and cultural demands to take an active role in caring for parents may also add feelings of pressure and stress. And caregiving, whether locally or from a long distance, can also drastically impact intimacy and relationships, as well as children and family life.

Young adults who must contend with competing commitments and responsibilities often feel that their busy lives are barriers to getting support. That’s why, for many young adult caregivers, and indeed anyone coping with a cancer diagnosis, online support groups are an ideal option for sharing difficult feelings with peers in a similar situation.

Professionally led, age-specific groups such as CancerCare’s Young Adult Caregivers Online Support Group offer a safe space for group members to share experiences and feel part of a virtual community of support. Online groups allow for flexibility, as members can share their thoughts and feelings and offer advice and support at any time from anywhere with an internet connection.

Many young adults caring for a parent with cancer find these groups to be incredibly rewarding experiences that help them define and make sense of their new role. CancerCare’s specialized services can ultimately reduce distress and enhance the coping of young adult caregivers as they consider whether to stay or to go.

Learn more about our free support services for caregivers and young adults. Start connecting with others online, over the phone, or in-person by registering for one of our support groups.

Author: Carly Mesavitz, LMSW, Oncology Social Worker, CancerCare


CancerCare Advocate Provides Hope for others Affected by Cancer

June 1, 2013

Maddy Gold sharing her story at the CancerCare Festival of Hope Gala

After being deeply impacted by cancer at such a young age, 13-year-old Maddy has become a courageous advocate for CancerCare’s free professional services available to anyone affected by cancer.

Maddy began coming to CancerCare for emotional support at the age of six after her mother, Alyssa, was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. “It was important for me to be at CancerCare, because if not, I would have let my nerves and feelings get the best of me,” explained Maddy. “My mom started losing her hair and got a wig. At first I didn’t understand why, but CancerCare once again came to the rescue. They explained to me about the medicine in her body and how it made her lose her hair.”

In December 2006, Alyssa passed away. Maddy and her brother continued coming to CancerCare to learn how to cope with their loss and their father joined a weekly bereavement group.

Determined to give back to the organization that helped her family through their most challenging times, Maddy dedicated her Bat Mitzvah project to providing hope to CancerCare clients. “Because of my experience, I know a lot about cancer. I wanted to contribute my time to talking to or working with children,” she said.

She currently volunteers at the CancerCare New Jersey office each week helping to prepare for the annual Healing Hearts Bereavement Camp. One of her passion projects involves creating a memory lane path where the children can add their fondest memories of a lost loved one. She has also raised over $1,500 by selling CancerCare bracelets and collecting donations through her family’s “Hearts of Gold” walking team.

Maddy continues to inspire CancerCare staff and clients each day with her desire to provide others with help and hope in the face of cancer.

Preventing and Managing Caregiver Burnout in Young Adults

April 23, 2013

Did you know that as a young person, you are especially susceptible to high levels of stress when serving as a caregiver? Navigating your own life, starting a family, developing a career and a variety of other responsibilities can impact your ability to provide care for another person. There are many helpful strategies as you approach this new role that may help to ease the burden and prevent or manage caregiver burnout.

Define your role as caregiver:

Identify your role and responsibilities. Are you serving as a primary caregiver or a casual friend/acquaintance? These two types of roles are equally important.  Your responsibilities can be flexible, so give yourself permission to modify as circumstances change.

Set guidelines and limits. How much and how often are you willing to give? Create a workable schedule and give yourself a day off or a “vacation” from caregiving. Define your non-negotiables (i.e. not moving in with the patient to provide care, or not taking time off work).

Consider alternate options for caregiving. Who else can provide practical and/or emotional support? What respite care is available (e.g., home health aide, visiting nurse)?

Prioritize responsibilities. What is most important to the patient? To you?

Getting acquainted with your new role:

Read literature. Know what types of literature are best for you. Do you prefer concrete medical information or literature that is more emotionally supportive?

Find your role in the medical context. Consider decisions about becoming a healthcare proxy or a power of attorney. Understand the legal impact of these roles and discuss with the patient early on. Will you attend appointments?

Talk to healthcare professionals. Let doctors and the entire health care team know who you are, what your role is and how they can reach you. Hospital social workers or patient navigators can be helpful advocates for you and the patient.  Ask questions regarding what to expect throughout the process, both physically and emotionally.

Understanding your relationship with the patient:

Acknowledge differences between the caregiver and the person with cancer. These differences are to be expected and it is normal to disagree. Reflect on what your relationship was like before cancer. A diagnosis does not necessarily change someone’s personality or your relationship, so it is important to manage your expectations. Cancer can intensify problems that were there before. Plan to seek support to help sort through what issues are cancer-related and what issues are not. Ask, don’t assume, how you can be there for them–communication is essential.

Helping other people “get it” and managing expectations. Inform others about your role as caregiver and ask for help. Let them know how this change is impacting you and how they can help meet your needs. Re-telling the same story can be exhausting. Simplify by sending a mass e-mail or utilizing resources like Some people are good at practical tasks while others can offer emotional support–explore the abilities of others versus your expectations of them.

Finding “me” time. Maintain commitments and activities that pre-dated your caregiving responsibilities. Create and maximize alone time (e.g., take walks, practice breathing exercises) and take care of yourself (get recommended sleep, spend time with loved ones, seek counseling).

Finding what works for you. Remember that there is no right way to be a caregiver. Allow for a trial and error period and make sure to give yourself a break as soon as you need it.

Author: Carly Mesavitz, LMSW, Oncology Social Worker, CancerCare