Vera’s Story of Help and Hope

December 16, 2014

Advocating for the well-being of others has always been a priority for Vera, who is the founder of a career advancement firm specializing in diversity recruiting. But she quickly began to realize the importance of advocating for oneself after being diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2014.

“I didn’t know a thing about breast cancer. I was totally in the dark and only knew that I’d been lucky up to this point,” shares Vera, 71. “There was urgency and I had to be aggressive to get what I needed. I had to make sure that I was taken care of the way I needed to be taken care of.”

Vera soon underwent an MRI, biopsy and surgery to remove the tumor. Chemotherapy and radiation followed in her treatment plan. “I hated going to chemotherapy the first day and then saw that I had to change my attitude. My friend said you have to be grateful because how many women out there with cancer don’t have access to treatment. That changed my thinking and I started to see that people were there to help me. They were my friends, not my enemies, so I went in with a smile.”

Throughout her treatment, Vera leaned on a network of caregivers and was referred to CancerCare through several members of her synagogue. “I’ve been very open about my diagnosis and that has been part of the support. The people in my synagogue are very supportive, always asking me what they can do. Some have even begun telling me how they’ve survived cancer and it has been very inspiring. It shows me that I’ll have a long healthy life ahead of me.”

Vera credits her CancerCare oncology social worker for helping to navigate the emotional, physical and practical challenges associated with her diagnosis. “I received total support from Alison. Total understanding of how I felt and that I was not crazy. I couldn’t have gotten through this without her.”

Through her cancer experience, Vera says she has become a much stronger and more compassionate person. “I used all of my survival skills. They were put into play as soon as I had that mammogram and heard the doctor say, ‘Oops it looks like we’ve got something here.’ I went into gear immediately.”

“I’ve learned to be really very supportive of other people and what they’re going through. Everyone needs people to care about them, to love them, to be thinking about them and hoping that they are going to be ok. Everybody needs it. It’s really been a huge lesson for me and has made me very aware of how fragile we are.”

Continuing to do the work that she loves, maintaining a positive outlook and staying up to date on cancer treatment information has helped Vera to heal and regain a sense of normalcy.

“One message I would share after going through this is to advocate for yourself every minute. You’ve got to stand up for yourself. No one knows what you need better than you.”

 

 

 

 


Lisa’s Story of Help and Hope

November 10, 2014

After Lisa was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2009, she turned to her reiki practice, a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing, to help make sense of it all.

“When I was initially told I that have cancer, of course, I was shocked. I turned white in the doctor’s office,” remembers Lisa, a certified reiki master and holistic practitioner. I immediately went into survivor mode. It was surreal, bizarre.”

Lisa soon underwent a lumpectomy and radiation and credits her spiritual tools for helping her through the difficult time. “I don’t believe in giving cancer power. I just called it the ‘C’ and I’d imagine Pac-Man eating away all the diseased cells out of my body. I had to do a lot of spiritual work on that.”

At times, Lisa found herself overwhelmed by her diagnosis and subsequent treatment. “I felt like I was getting lost in the shuffle and had to be my own advocate. It was hard to navigate all of this. It was like a full time job – getting a second, third opinion. The key to it was listening to my intuition as my guide, as it always leads me in the right direction.”

After learning that many of her medical bills wouldn’t be covered by insurance, Lisa turned to CancerCare. “I couldn’t believe that I was being hit with all of these bills while I was still going through treatment. CancerCare guided me in the process of receiving financial assistance. They really gave me a lot of tools that helped me and for that I’ve been so grateful.”

Lisa always knew that she would give back to those who helped her one day. She began putting her skills as a reiki master to use for a greater good. Each October, for the last three years, Lisa has donated her reiki income to CancerCare’s free support services. She also uses her healing skills to perform reiki on people going through cancer treatment. “Reiki is gentle but yet powerful. It gave me hope, inner strength and released lots of anxiety and stress.”

“I feel blessed that I came across CancerCare. They helped me when my insurance company failed me and left me with a huge portion of the bills. What I received, no words can describe.”

When Lisa was previously diagnosed with chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS), which has no cure, she was led to find alternative ways to heal. Since that time, Lisa has regained her health and strength and has been dedicated to healing, teaching and empowering others with cancer or any other type of illness. To learn more about Lisa’s story, visit her site.

 


Palliative Care Inches Toward Standard of Care

October 29, 2014

The Inaugural Palliative Care in Oncology Symposium made its debut in Boston on October 24, 2014. Jointly sponsored by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (AAHPM), American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) and the Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer (MASCC), this marks the first major meeting of cancer specialists and clinicians who focus on relieving symptoms.

Palliative care is specialized medical treatment that focuses on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain, and stress of a serious illness. It improves quality of life for both the patient and the family.

Traditionally, palliative care has been accessed only toward the end of life. Many recent studies however, have shown that introducing it earlier into cancer patients’ care plans results in improved quality of life, living longer and lower medical costs. Patients and families may resist palliative services because they associate the term with hospice and end of life. This problem of semantics often results in patients not being adequately treated for debilitating symptoms such as pain, nausea and fatigue.

It’s time to correct these misconceptions and help patients access the care they need, be it medical, emotional, spiritual, financial or otherwise. Through palliative care, people affected by cancer will benefit from improved symptom management, reduced stress and overall, a better quality of life.

Want to know more? Visit cancer.gov or cancer.net for additional resources.

Our guest blogger is CancerCare Chief Executive Officer Patricia J. Goldsmith.

 


Coping with Cancer as an Older Adult

August 7, 2014

Older adults have numerous strengths, including knowledge and experience, that can assist them in coping with a cancer diagnosis. Simultaneously, they may face unique challenges that affect their ability to make health care decisions and receive quality care.

Today, older adults find themselves in an increasingly complex medical system where they are expected to take an active role in managing their care when they may be unable to do so. Access to medical information through technology may prove confusing and cause patients to refrain from asking key questions about their care or feel unsure about where to access important and accurate health information.

It is essential that older adults and their loved ones be able to openly and honestly discuss their care with their doctors and any potential difficulties that may arise. CancerCare has valuable tips for communicating with your health care team.

Many older patients struggle with changes related to aging and becoming more dependent on others. As oncology health professionals, we are in the unique position to provide care and support. To learn more, please call 800-813-HOPE (4673).

Our guest blogger Sarah Kelly, LSCW is coordinator for Older Adult Services at CancerCare


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.

 


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.


New Institute of Medicine (IOM) Report Stresses Importance of Comprehensive Patient Care

September 11, 2013

A new report released by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) this week, Delivering High-Quality Cancer Care: Charting a New Course for a System in Crisis, is changing the conversation about cancer patient care.

The report documents how the current health care system fails to adequately address patients’ needs, leading to poorer outcomes and quality of life. It also provides recommendations in six areas for improving patient care:

  • Engaging patients to make more informed choices about their care
  • Having an adequately staffed, trained and coordinated workforce
  • Providing evidence-based care
  • Learning health care information technology (IT)
  • Translating evidence into clinical practice, quality measurement and performance improvement
  • Offering accessible and affordable care

This breakthrough report reaffirms IOM’s recommendation that health care professionals address patients’ “psychosocial” (practical, financial and emotional) concerns, along with medical needs, in order to provide the most comprehensive care.

CancerCare has long been looked to as the leading organization advocating the importance of psychosocial cancer care, and was instrumental in crafting recommendations for the IOM’s landmark 2007 report, “Cancer Care for the Whole Patient: Meeting Psychosocial Health Needs.”

The findings from that report, as well as from this most recent report, illustrate the crucial importance of providing care addressing patients’ myriad needs. CancerCare applauds the IOM for continuing to advocate for comprehensive patient care going beyond simply treating the disease.

Amy J. Berman, Senior Program Officer at the Hartford Foundation and celebrated health care blogger, provides a clear and concise rundown of the report on the Hartford Foundation’s blog, Health AGEenda. Amy also provided testimony, served as a reviewer for the report, and is included in the accompanying IOM video clip, which you can watch below.

 

 


Tips for Communicating with Your Health Care Team

May 22, 2013

Talking to your doctor can be difficult, but the relationship you have with your health care team can make a big difference in how well you cope with cancer. Research shows that people who have good communication with their health care team are much more satisfied with their medical care than those who do not. They also tend to better cope with emotional stress and symptoms such as treatment side effects and pain.

Here are some tips for communicating with your health care team:

  • Prepare a list of questions. Write down your questions and concerns about your illness and treatment before your next medical appointment. This way, you won’t forget to ask about something that was important to you.
  • Write down your doctor’s answers. Taking notes will help you remember your doctor’s responses, advice and instructions. If you have a mobile device, you can also use it to take notes so that you can easily review the information at a later time.
  • Bring someone with you to your appointments. The person who accompanies you can serve as a second set of ears. He or she may also be able to think of additional questions to ask your doctor or remember details that you may have forgotten.
  • Ask for a contact. Important questions may come up between appointments. Find out whether there is someone you can talk to if you have an important issue or emergency. If your doctor is unavailable, is there someone else such as a nurse or social worker you can call?

The more you feel you can openly discuss any matters of concern to you, the better you are likely to feel about your care over the long term. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask questions—always seek the care you need and deserve.

Learn more about communicating with your health care team.

Today’s guest blog was written by William Goeren, MSW, LCSW-R, Director of Clinical Services at CancerCare.


Free Booklets on Caregiving and Talking to Children About Cancer

July 19, 2012

Two of CancerCare’s most popular Connect booklets, Caregiving for Your Loved One with Cancer and Helping Children When a Family Member Has Cancer, have been completely redesigned and are back in stock. Each booklet can be ordered free of charge from our online order form.

Caregiving for Your Loved One with Cancer provides many helpful tips for helping a loved one coping with cancer, including:

  • Ways to provide emotional support
  • How to care for a loved one who lives far away
  • Tips for taking care of your own health
  • Strategies for coping with the difficult emotions brought on by caregiving

Learn more about our free resources for caregivers.

 

Helping Children When a Family Has Cancer explains the importance of communicating with children about cancer, and offers tips for:

  • Disclosing a cancer diagnosis
  • Discussing treatment side effects
  • Talking about a loved one’s prognosis

View all of our services that help children cope with cancer.

 

 


CNN Profiles CancerCare Oncology Social Worker

July 12, 2012

CancerCare oncology social worker Richard “Rick” Dickens, LCSW-R, shares his story of coping with cancer in a new segment airing on CNN’s “Human Factor.” The program, which profiles extraordinary individuals who have overcome challenging odds, is narrated by CNN’s chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Rick first came to CancerCare as a client after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and participated in a support group for young adults coping with cancer. Interacting with other support group members helped Rick realize he wasn’t alone in his journey. The group gave him emotional support as well as valuable insight into his diagnosis and life after treatment.

Rick joined the staff of CancerCare as a professional oncology social worker in 1997, moderating the support group he had previously attended. As CancerCare’s Mind/Body Project Coordinator, Rick incorporates practices such as visualization and meditation into his counseling to help people cope with difficult emotions and find a sense of peace.

Watch the CNN segment and read his blog:

Read more about Rick’s journey as a cancer survivor.

Rick recently answered questions about using mind/body practices to cope with cancer as an “Ask CancerCare” featured expert.

Learn more about CancerCare’s resources on mind/body and relaxation practices.