Sue’s Story of Help and Hope

September 25, 2014

Sue with and her children Emily and Andy

Sue began advocating for emotional support after her husband, Rob, advanced to stage 4 melanoma in 2009. He’d been at stage 3 for almost three years, long enough for his doctor to be optimistic and for the family to feel more confident about the future. The news, received in the emergency room where he’d been taken in response to a seizure, came as a huge blow. In the weeks and months that followed, Rob desperately wanted counseling to help him cope.

“I wish I’d known about CancerCare sooner,” said Sue. “I spent whole days identifying and taking Rob to psychologists within his health plan, but we found that none of them understood his emotional state.”

She was ultimately referred to CancerCare for her own support. “When I finally learned about the CancerCare phone and online caregiver support groups, I seized them like a lifeline and was rewarded with both coping skills and lifelong friendships.”

But Rob, by then very advanced, could not manage counseling by phone. When he passed away in 2010, Sue again sought out resources to help her and their children Emily and Andy, then ages six and three, process and heal through the difficult time. That’s when she learned the CancerCare New Jersey office was nearby. She says it was life-changing.

Sue began receiving in-person bereavement counseling. She and her children also attended the Healing Hearts Bereavement Camp, picnics, holiday parties and other activities.

Andy at CancerCare’s Healing Hearts Bereavement Camp

“I think bereavement therapy is important for both the kids and the surviving spouse. The CancerCare family program was incredibly supportive for us. We benefited from group activities where we all shared our experiences and were guided by the counselors,” says Sue. “Emily told me several times it meant a lot that she could talk with and play with other kids who had also lost a parent. It was hard for her to interact with kids at school who didn’t understand, and she felt removed from them; different. I think it gave Andy words to express his loss in preschool.”

For families facing similar challenges, Sue suggests taking time to be together as a family and create special memories together. She also stresses the importance of managing the continuum of care, asking others for help when necessary, and having a sense of humor even during the hard times. “It’s critical to hang together as a family unit. At the same time, don’t be afraid to ask your friends for help and to accept it! And whenever things get stressful, try not to lose your sense of humor and perspective.”

“We have healed and grown, basking in the warmth and support of CancerCare’s wonderful, caring staff and the ability to share with other families in similar situations. CancerCare continues to be part of our lives as we move into a new role, drawing on our experiences to help other families embarking on this journey.”

In Rob’s honor, Sue formed Team Chevrier to raise critical funds for anyone affected by cancer in the CancerCare Walk/Run for Hope in Paramus, New Jersey. Learn more or donate to Sue’s team by visiting http://community.cancercare.org/robswalk


Family Brings Holiday Cheer and Hope to Anyone Affected by Cancer

September 17, 2014

The Facilla’s home

John and Josephine Facilla have decorated their Long Island home for the past 35 holiday seasons. The display started off small and has grown to include more than 10,000 lights and an elaborate Santa’s Workshop.

“Decorating brings our family and the community together. Usually after Halloween I start putting the display up and I go crazy,” said John.

Josephine, a three-time cancer survivor, and her husband wanted to spread holiday cheer as well as make a difference for a cause close to their hearts.

Left to right: Josephine Facilla, John Facilla, Hunter Brignoli, Tom Brignoli, Donna-Marie Brignoli, Sophia Facilla, John A. Facilla, Ava Facilla, Denise Facilla, and in the arms of Donna-Marie, Charli and Brooke Brignoli.

 

“We had the inspiration to do something big for the holidays one year,” said Josephine. “Our neighbor was very sick with cancer and someone gave them the number for CancerCare. It was unbelievable. They gave them everything and anything that they needed. It was like nothing we’d ever seen before, so we decided that was the route we were taking.”

For more than 20 years, the Facilla’s display has featured a collection box for donations, with proceeds going directly to CancerCare’s free support services. They have since raised more than $10,000 for people affected by cancer.

“We have people come that have cancer, so I can talk with them and relate,” says Josephine.

The Facilla family adds something new to the display each year, but the mission of the project remains the same – to bring cheer to the community and to make a difference in the lives of people with cancer.

 


Coping When Your Loved One Has Cancer

September 5, 2014

Resources for Adolescents and Young Adults

Most teens and young adults face the everyday challenges of school, jobs and relationships. But if you are a teen or young adult who is also caring for a loved one with cancer, you know firsthand how a cancer diagnosis can bring on a whole new set of concerns. You may suddenly find yourself adjusting to the role of caregiver; someone who provides emotional and practical support. Here are some things you can do to help you cope:

Keep in mind that being a caregiver can mean many things. As an adolescent or young adult, you may not be the primary caregiver, but know that your role is still valuable. Whether you are thousands of miles away from your loved one or living in the same household, it is important that you are involved in ways that are meaningful both for yourself and the person with cancer. You can help your loved one by making phone calls, going to doctors’ appointments, cooking a meal, or offering emotional support.

Communicate with your loved one. Having an open dialogue with your loved one can help gain mutual understanding and can clearly outline your role as a caregiver. Talk to each other about the changes that are happening and how you both are coping. Acknowledge that you may see things differently, and explore ways to come together when you can.

Make your care a priority, too. Maintaining your own responsibilities, commitments, and lifestyle are all important in ensuring that your needs are met as you care for a loved one. Take advantage of down time to read a book, take a walk, listen to music, meditate, or spend time with friends.

Seek support. There are more people affected by cancer at your age than you may think. Connecting to a support group can help ease feelings of isolation, provide emotional and practical support, and help maintain aspects of your life that were important before cancer. Individual counseling with a professional oncology social worker can help you prioritize your responsibilities, set goals, and find better ways to cope with being a caregiver.

Remember that you are not alone. CancerCare has additional free resources tailored specifically for the needs of adolescents and young adults.

 

 


O’Neill’s Irish Pub Golf Outing Raises $175,000 for People Affected by Cancer

September 2, 2014

Ollie O’Neill moved to the states from Dublin in 1995 and pursued his dream of bringing the Irish pub culture to his new hometown, Norwalk, CT. He opened O’Neill’s Irish Pub and Restaurant on St. Patrick’s Day of 1999. Not only did he want to provide authentic food and drinks to the community, Ollie also wanted make a lasting difference in the lives of people affected by cancer.

Ollie O’Neill at this year’s event.

“I initially wanted to do something for CancerCare because my sister was diagnosed with leukemia when she was nine,” said Ollie. “We all felt that this was a cause we wanted to help because CancerCare was right here in town and we’d heard about some of the great services. I feel that if we had had these services when we found out about my sister’s diagnosis, it would have helped quite a bit.”

In 2007, O’Neill’s Irish Pub established the first annual Golf Outing. Ollie and his team of supporters have raised an astonishing $175,000 over the past 15 years.

“We figured it was a good way to get the community involved and give back. Get out there and play, eat, drink and have fun for a good cause,” said Ollie. “It is amazing. All we do is host the event and invite people to participate. They just want to contribute. I’ve sold out every year.”

“The event that O’Neill’s Pub and Restaurant hosts each year to benefit CancerCare makes a discernible difference in the lives of people affected by cancer in the Norwalk community and beyond,” said Regional Director of the CancerCare Connecticut Office Sandra Tripodi, LCSW, ACSW. “Whether it is a person who is in need of a wig, a child who is struggling to make sense of what cancer means in their family, or someone in need of financial assistance to address treatment related barriers, we depend upon our community of support to make our free services available.”

Are interested in making a difference in the lives of people facing cancer? Get your friends, family members, co-workers, neighbors, and community involved in supporting CancerCare‘s free services through Team CancerCare. There is no limit to the kinds of events you can organize.

 

 

 


The Benefits of Joining a Support Group

August 27, 2014

People with cancer and their caregivers sometimes feel that other people, unless they’ve been through it themselves, don’t really understand or “get it.” Or they don’t want to burden their families or friends with their worries: Why do I feel so bad? What will happen to me?

Joining a support group is an opportunity to meet with people who are going through similar experiences. By expressing your thoughts and feelings and sharing what you’ve learned, you may begin to feel less alone. Group members exchange valuable information and tips with one other including where to find reliable medical information, how to communicate better with their doctors, and what useful resources are available. Groups provide a safe space in which individuals can voice their feelings, concerns, and anxieties without fear of judgment or reproach.

One support group member shares her experience and gratitude. “The people in this group have become family to me. They understand the roller coaster ride. I can cry here and I can share tender stories here. I can share the rays of sunshine as they come. I am grateful to CancerCare for facilitating this group – I don’t know what I would have done without it.”

All of CancerCare’s support groups are led by oncology social workers. These professionals help the group achieve its goal of providing support to members, and can also help members individually as needed. Groups meet face-to-face, over the telephone and online.

If you’re feeling alone and needing information and emotional support, a group might be a valuable way of connecting with people to help you cope with your situation. CancerCare has many free support groups that may be a fit for you or your loved one. And if a support group is not a good fit, you may consider individual counseling.


AVONCares Provides Help for Women Facing Cancer

August 18, 2014

Cancer treatment not only includes medical expenses, but also practical costs such as transportation to and from treatment, home care and child care. Thanks to AVONCares, a partnership between CancerCare and the Avon Foundation for Women, financial assistance and other services have been made available to underserved women facing cancer in all 50 states. Over the past 14 years, AVONCares has provided more than $21.6 million to help these women cope with cancer.

The financial impact of a cancer diagnosis is oftentimes overlooked and under-discussed. The inability to go to work and provide for one’s family, paired with medical and practical costs, can result in patients feeling lost and unsure of where to turn for help.

From Kathleen, a recent AVONCares grant recipient: “I never dreamed I would be in this position of being diagnosed with cancer and asking for help, because I was always the one giving to others. God bless you and your organization for your kindness.”

Support for this program is made possible by funds raised through the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer Series.

Remember to reach out for support—medical debt can cause emotional stress, but there are resources available to provide relief. Learn more about CancerCare’s financial assistance services.

 


Susan’s Story of Help and Hope

August 14, 2014

The family at Henri’s 5th birthday party

Susan faced many challenges after her husband Chris was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. One of the greatest was figuring out the best way to talk about cancer with their five-year-old son Henri.

“Henri knows that something is wrong and I’m sure he knows more than he is able to articulate. He knows that daddy is sick,” shares Susan.

After searching online, Susan called CancerCare in search of resources to help Henri understand and cope. An oncology social worker suggested The Comfort Pillow Activity to help the family communicate with one another and feel more comfortable talking about cancer. The Activity includes a pillow that can be customized and designed to bring a child comfort, as well as a booklet and additional resources that help to initiate therapeutic conversations.

“CancerCare and their resources have been so helpful. Chris and Henri sat on the floor together, spread out all of the kit materials and colored on the pillow. It was a really great exercise for Chris – a really special bonding moment and it’s something they’ll always have together.”

The pillow features Henri’s favorite things including superheroes, rainbows, planets and rocket ships. “Henri sleeps with the pillow every night. He traced hearts on one side and wrote ‘Henri, Dad and Mom’ in each of the hearts.”

Sue feels the activity has brought the family closer and has allowed them to have difficult conversations about cancer. “When Chris has to leave for chemotherapy, he is oftentimes gone before Henri wakes up and doesn’t return until after Henri goes to bed. On those days, Henri can pull out the pillow and know that he is loved and can read the special message on an enclosed heart from his dad.”

 

 


CancerCare Welcomes Ellen Miller Sonet as Chief Strategy and Alliance Officer

August 7, 2014

CancerCare is pleased to welcome Chief Strategy and Alliance Officer Ellen Miller Sonet to the organization.

In her role, Sonet will serve as an integral member of CancerCare’s Executive Leadership Team charged with strategic branding, cultivating alliances within the oncology community and advancing CancerCare’s national policy agenda.

“I’m honored to be joining this extraordinary organization, which is at the forefront of supporting cancer patients and families both locally and nationally,” Sonet said.

In her nearly 17 years as Vice President of Marketing at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Sonet was an avid patient advocate who was devoted to understanding the complex nature of health care decision-making and the needs of people affected by cancer. Her work showed an unfaltering focus on clear and relevant communication that facilitated making informed health care choices and supported patients and families through their cancer experiences.

“Ellen is a creative and passionate health care marketing and strategy professional with in-depth experience at executive levels in the hospital and pharma industries,” said CancerCare CEO Patricia J. Goldsmith. “Her expertise and vision will undoubtedly elevate our status as a national oncology leader and will help us to build on 70 years of success.”

Prior to her tenure at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, Sonet worked in pharmaceutical marketing on brands such as Afrin Nasal Spray and Bayer Aspirin. She holds a BA in political science from Brown University, and an MBA and JD from Boston University.

 

 


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


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.”