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.”

 

 

 


Xiomara and Jaeden’s Story of Help and Hope

July 17, 2014

Xiomara, 46, had never been affected by cancer until her son Jaeden was suddenly diagnosed at age three with ependymoma, a rare type of brain tumor.

“No one in my family had ever had cancer. When you hear about it, it is totally different than when it actually hits your family – especially a toddler,” she explains.

In 2010, Xiomara noticed that Jaeden began frequently stumbling and falling. “One day he was playing on the floor and he looked up at me and his eyes crossed. I thought it was kind of strange. I told myself, now I’m going to look into this and took him to the pediatrician.”

After Jaeden received an MRI, the doctor called to deliver the news. “He kept saying ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry.’ When he said the word cancer, I was stunned. He asked me to write down these phone numbers, but I couldn’t write. It is a feeling you just can’t describe. It hits you.”

Jaeden was quickly scheduled for surgery to remove the tumor and spent the following two weeks in the intensive care unit. “It was nerve-racking. My sister came to the hospital and waited 16 hours during the surgery with me. Waiting, waiting and waiting. It was hard on my other two children. My first son couldn’t walk into the room because of the tubes and bandages.”

As part of his treatment plan, Jaeden was transferred to a rehabilitation unit and underwent six weeks of radiation. He also had eye surgery and began outpatient therapy. He will most likely undergo eye surgery in the near future and continues weekly therapy.

Since Jaeden’s diagnosis, Xiomara has received financial assistance through a partnership between CancerCare and The Lavelle Fund. This fund supports programs that help people who are blind and visually impaired lead independent, productive lives.

Jaeden celebrating his seventh birthday

“CancerCare helped me out with medical bills that I had to pay, along with the transportation to vision therapy. If it wasn’t for that I don’t know what I would have done. I’m still struggling as a single parent, but they have helped and I’m very grateful.”

Now seven years old, Jaeden is thriving at school and summer camp. “I’m grateful to know that his tumor is out and that he’s doing as well as he is right now,” says Xiomara. “He’s walking, he’s talking. I still think about it and am still nervous about it. That’s my little angel. He’s a strong little boy.”

 


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.

 


Celebrating 70 Years of Service with our Founding Family

June 11, 2014

CancerCare‘s founding family

As CancerCare celebrates 70 years of providing help and hope to anyone affected by cancer, we feel it is important to reflect on where it all began and to honor the vision of our founding family.

Julius Jay Perlmutter, a lifelong philanthropist, experienced the devastating impact of cancer firsthand when his parents were both diagnosed and lost their lives thirteen weeks apart in 1938. In attempting to get quality care for his parents, Julius quickly learned that no facilities existed to help middle-class patients with advanced cancer.

This experience motivated Julius to create CancerCare, a nonprofit organization that would help people diagnosed with cancer and their families by accepting patient referrals and providing a low-cost private room and bath.

“It is so important for people to know that CancerCare is out there and that information is available, that help is available. CancerCare has helped millions of people financially,” said Julius’ daughter, Regina Goldstein.

Regina Goldstein, daughter of CancerCare founder Julius Jay Perlmutter

All of us at CancerCare are grateful to Julius Jay Perlmutter and his family for their commitment to giving back to those in need. It is a testament to his long-term vision that CancerCare continues to expand our services as our clients are faced with new financial and practical challenges. Much has changed since 1944, but our mission remains the same: to provide help and hope to anyone affected by cancer.


CancerCare Social Workers Shine at the AOSW Annual Conference

June 5, 2014

Allison Nilsen, LMSW presenting at AOSW

A dynamic team of six CancerCare oncology social work team members presented at this year’s Association of Oncology Social Work (AOSW) Annual Conference. AOSW is a non-profit, international organization dedicated to the enhancement of psychosocial services to people with cancer and their families.

More than 500 oncology social work professionals gathered in Baltimore, Maryland for the conference on May 28-30, 2014. CancerCare presenters included Maria Chi, LCSW; Elizabeth Ezra, LCSW, OSW-C; William Goeren, LCSW-R; Carly Mesavitz, LCSW, OSW-C; Carolyn Messner, DSW, OSW-C, LCSW-R and Allison Nilsen, LMSW.

CancerCare presentations and posters were given on a variety of topics, including:

• Feeling Whole Again: The Role of Social Work Intervention During a Wig and Breast Prosthesis Fitting

• Finding Hope Beyond the Pall of a Pancreatic Cancer Diagnosis: What Can We Do to Help?

• Oncology Social Work Field Education: An Insider’s Perspective

• Support Group for Older Gay Men with Cancer – Clinical Issues and Overview

• Training the Next Generation of Leaders in Oncology Social Work

Elizabeth Ezra, LCSW, OSW-C presents on pancreatic cancer

Created in 1984 by social workers interested in oncology and by existing national cancer organizations, AOSW is an expanding force of psychosocial oncology professionals. The annual meeting serves as a wonderful opportunity to advance the field of oncology social work, as well as to highlight the important work conducted by CancerCare’s social workers.

 

 

 

 

 


Coping with Lung Cancer: Arlene’s Story

May 27, 2014

Arlene visiting the CancerCare Wig Clinic

During a routine annual check-up with her physician, Arlene C. learned that after 15 years in remission, her lung cancer had returned. “The cancer had come back – an aggressive one. Surgery and chemo. That’s when it all began,” shared Arlene.

Arlene knew that chemo meant she would likely lose her hair and she wanted to prepare herself for the physical change and the accompanying emotions she might experience. Her daughter-in-law mentioned that CancerCare had resources that could help.

After making an appointment at the New York City-based CancerCare Wig Clinic, Arlene and a friend met with an oncology social worker to discuss her treatment and the challenges she was facing. She was also fitted for her new wig and given a care package to help her through the next few months.

“I went to CancerCare and was treated royally,” said Arlene. “I was expecting the hair loss, but it was still a shock to my system. But I didn’t make myself or anyone else nuts over it and, before I turned around, I had hair again.”

Arlene was touched by the care she received and made a donation to the organization and wrote a poem about her experience. “I made a donation in honor of the CancerCare staff who just made my day in many ways with their caring and comfort.”

 

“Daze of Chemo”

By Arlene C.

The doctor called, “We have to talk”

I set the date to learn my fate

Aggressive cancer

Surgery then chemo

The next step was to embark with my children Susan and Mark

Where to go for my chemo?

Mark thought I should be closer to him in Sag Harbor for treatments

But we let that rest and went with the alternative that was best

The calendar was marked for the days, the hours, but not my mind or body

Mark and Susan were with me all the way

I made a promise I couldn’t sway or betray

Where do I begin?

The daze of chemo was upon me

I was never good at acting

But in the end I knew I was going to win a trophy as the best robot

Where do I begin?

My battle began with anxiety, brain loss – especially names

Stomach problems, low blood pressure

All of this caused by the very strong dosage given

However they changed the recipe and I was cooking again

And then the crowing glory

I lost all my hair

Susan bought me a hat

CancerCare gave me a wig

And I amassed some turbans, etc.

Everyday became a chore

Trying to match headwear with outfits

The one good perk was I didn’t have to buy shampoo

Six months later, after two PET scans, I’m clean

Is there anything else to do but thank God and all my friends that prayed for me?

Not done yet

I had my own unveiling

Tossed the turbans, etc. and showed my head off

Everyone loved my new hair do

I truly felt I went from being a robot to queen for a day

 


Grant from The Horizon Foundation For New Jersey will Bring Cancer Services to Underserved Populations

May 20, 2014

 

 

CancerCare has received a $35,000 grant from The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey. The grant will fund CancerCare’s project, Early Detection and Education Program for Underserved Individuals in Newark.

The project aims to bring professional services to the local community and raise awareness on the importance of screening for breast, cervical, colon and prostate cancers. Free educational workshops, led by Spanish-speaking social workers, will be provided throughout Newark and the surrounding Essex County areas.

On-site cancer screenings will be available at select sites. Participants will also have direct access to CancerCare’s professional support services, including financial assistance and counseling.

“The need for expert, no cost cancer prevention and early detection services is growing. Through this generous grant from The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, CancerCare will be able to effectively reach even more underserved populations,” said CancerCare CEO Patricia J. Goldsmith. “A growing body of evidence demonstrates that a lack of knowledge about cancer risk factors can hinder early diagnosis. Early diagnosis leads to the best possible outcomes at the lowest cost. This project will allow our organization to bring critical information and services to hundreds of individuals in the community that might otherwise face a diagnosis without much needed support services.”

CancerCare’s continued partnership with The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey will address language, cultural and psychological barriers that traditionally prevent underserved individuals from obtaining regular cancer screenings.

“We are delighted to support CancerCare,” said Jonathan R. Pearson, Executive Director of The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey. “The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey is dedicated to supporting charitable organizations making an impact in the lives of people across New Jersey.”

For more information about the Foundation visit www.HorizonBlue.com/foundation.

 

 


Coping with Cancer in the Workplace

May 13, 2014


Recent medical advances are allowing more and more people coping with cancer to continue working during and after treatment. The workplace can be a supportive environment for people facing a cancer diagnosis; it can contribute to a sense of normalcy and provide a feeling of community, not to mention financial stability and health insurance benefits.

For many people who want to continue to work during and after treatment, the issue of disclosure looms large in their minds. Some may worry that they will be seen as a liability to their employer and perhaps be terminated from their position if they open up about their diagnosis. Others may fear that they will encounter subtle discrimination.

As an oncology social worker at CancerCare, I encourage clients who decide to tell their employers about their cancer to learn as much as possible about their diagnosis and treatment schedule before discussing it. Presenting a plan of action to their supervisor will not only help people feel more in control of their diagnosis, it may help ease the supervisor’s or coworkers’ concerns about how work will keep moving forward as the patient copes with his or her diagnosis.

Part of returning to work after an illness is immersing oneself back into the identity you had before treatment. I encourage people to take control of conversations that become about their cancer by acknowledging their colleague’s comment and then immediately focusing back to work specific topics. This is called “re-casting” or resetting your professional image.

There are many available resources that can help people coping with cancer in the workplace. CancerCare provides free resources on workplace issuesCancer and Careers is another excellent resource for information about coping with cancer in the workplace.

 

Our guest blogger is Anna L. Eckhardt, LCSW, coordinator of online services at CancerCare.