Posts Tagged ‘cancer support’

Winship Win the Fight 5K

Winship Fight 5KThe Winship Win the Fight 5K is this Saturday, September 27, 2014 and already a HALF A MILLION DOLLARS has been raised towards cancer research at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University.

There’s still time to be a part of this special event! Today is the last day to register online for Saturday’s event. If you cannot be present to run or walk this weekend, register as a “Sleep-In Warrior” to support cancer research from wherever you will be this weekend.

For more information, or to register, visit the Winship Win the Fight 5K website. Also, check out this inspiring video below featuring WSB-TV’s Mark Winne’s wife, Kate, a cancer survivor and Winship patient. Mark and Kate’s story not only shows the crucial role cancer research plays in the continuous fight for a world without cancer, but also the hope it beings to patients and families, here and now.

Related Resources:

Cancer Researchers, Patients Support Winship 5K Side-by-Side
Why I Run: To Raise Awareness & Funding For My Dad’s Cancer
Running to Carry Forth a Father’s Passion to Make a Difference…

Caring for the Caregiver

Cancer CaregiverCaring for a loved one who has been diagnosed with cancer is such an important role. Most often it is a spouse, family member or close friend who becomes the primary caregiver for the patient. It’s a big responsibility that can, at times, be overwhelming. Sometimes we forget that caregivers need to be taken care of too.

Here are some tips for caring for the caregiver:

  • Reach out to other friends and family members for assistance. Make a list of duties that need to be completed in order to care for the patient. Ask others to help complete those tasks. This can help alleviate some stress for the caregiver.
  • Sign up for a caregiver support group. This can introduce you to other caregivers who are in a similar situation. It is also a great way to share ideas and tips. Winship Cancer Institute has a Caregiver Support Group that meets on the third Wednesday of each month for caregivers of cancer patients. Caregivers may also be interested in reaching out to other caregivers for some one-on-one support.
  • Make sure you are getting enough sleep and rest. Seven to eight hours of sleep each night can help you recharge your body and mind and give you more energy.
  • Consider relaxation techniques like meditation and yoga. Journaling is another great way to help process your feelings. This can be helpful in coping with some of the stress related to caregiving.
  • Don’t neglect your own health. Be sure to schedule and keep your own doctor appointments. It is common for caregivers to put all of their focus on the patient’s needs and ignore their own health. If you are a caregiver, you must take good care of yourself; otherwise, your own health concerns may make you unable to continue taking care of the patient.
  • Make time for yourself. It is important that caregivers do things that they enjoy doing, such as spending time with friends, participating in a hobby or exercising.

It’s easy to burn out while caring for a loved one with a serious medical condition. Pace yourself and know that you have don’t have to go it alone.

About Joy McCall, LMSW

Joy McCallJoy McCall is a Winship social worker with bone marrow transplant, hematology and gynecologic teams and their patients. She started her professional career at Winship as an intern, working with breast, gynecologic, brain and melanoma cancer patients. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Kennesaw State University and a Master of Social Work from the University of Georgia. As part of her education she completed an internship with the Marcus Institute working on the pediatric feeding unit, and an internship counseling individuals and couples at Families First, supporting families and children facing challenges to build strong family bonds and stability for their future. She had previously worked with individuals with developmental disabilities for over 4 years, providing support to families and caregivers.

Related Resources:

Caregivers of Cancer Patients Need Care Too
Support Groups at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University
American Cancer Society
CancerCare

8 Ways to Cope with Cancer as a Young Adult

Friend SupportReceiving a cancer diagnosis can be devastating. Just imagine how hard it would be to hear the news as a young adult. The challenges of being diagnosed with cancer between the ages of 18 and 39 are different from those in patients who are diagnosed later in life.

Many young adults diagnosed with cancer experience a disruption in a new career and dating. Cancer and any treatments that follow can sometimes have long-term affects on a person’s ability to start a family.

Here are eight ways to help you cope with cancer as a young adult:

  1. Request and ask for help. Having a support system during this time is critical. Be sure to reach out to others for support even after your treatment is completed.
  2. Consider giving friends and family members specific tasks in order to help you. Some friends and family members may not be sure how best to support you during this time. It may be helpful to you and them to provide friends and family members with specific requests. For example, request rides to treatment, ask for certain meals to be made or errands to be ran.
  3. Educate yourself. Having knowledge about your diagnosis and treatment often helps young patients maintain some sort of control during this time. This also helps to ensure you are making educated decisions about your healthcare.
  4. Ask questions! Do not hesitate to ask your healthcare provider if you have any questions. Write down your questions prior to your medical appointments.
  5. Inquire about how your treatment will affect you. Many treatments affect a patient’s ability to conceive children in the future. Talk with your medical professional about this and what options may be available to you.
  6. Consider reaching out to other young cancer survivors through young adult support groups or connecting online. The Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University currently has a new Young Adult Cancer Survivor Online Support Group that meets once a month. This group is specific for any young adult who was diagnosed with cancer between the ages of 18 and 39.
  7. Reach out to a social worker for additional emotional support. Oncology social workers have a special level of expertise and are trained to provide support to patients as they are coping with diagnosis and treatment. It is often helpful to be able to process your feelings with someone else. Social workers also have a wealth of knowledge about additional resources that may be helpful.
  8. Try not to compare yourself to other friends or family members. Your cancer diagnosis may have altered your life pattern, however, it does not have to destroy it.

The cancer diagnosis is something that happened to you, but it doesn’t have to define you or control your future. There is help out there; you just have to know where to look and who to ask.

About Joy McCall, LMSW

Joy McCallJoy McCall is a Winship social worker with bone marrow transplant, hematology and gynecologic teams and their patients. She started her professional career at Winship as an intern, working with breast, gynecologic, brain and melanoma cancer patients. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Kennesaw State University and a Master of Social Work from the University of Georgia. As part of her education she completed an internship with the Marcus Institute working on the pediatric feeding unit, and an internship counseling individuals and couples at Families First, supporting families and children facing challenges to build strong family bonds and stability for their future. She had previously worked with individuals with developmental disabilities for over 4 years, providing support to families and caregivers.

Additional Resources

Anticipatory Grief: Mourning for Your Loved One with a Terminal Diagnosis

Anna’s husband was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer. The doctors have arranged for him to start palliative chemotherapy and expect that he will live another year. Anna is grateful for the time she has left with her husband but often finds herself thinking about a life without her beloved spouse. She feels guilty for thinking about his funeral while he is still alive, but she can’t help wondering what it will be like. Will she cry or will she be relieved he is no longer in pain? Anna questions how she can plan for the future while she is in a constant state of emergency…

The cancer journey can be an emotional rollercoaster for everyone involved. Patients and caregivers, like Anna, are forced to deal with a variety of emotions beginning with the diagnosis, continuing through treatment and finally to remission or death. If death is in the foreseeable future, loved ones can experience anticipatory grief.

What is anticipatory grief?

Anticipatory Grief Cancer CaregiversAnticipatory grief is a form of mourning that occurs in anticipation of death. Anticipatory grief is often experienced once patients or their loved ones acknowledge the terminal nature of an illness. This form of grief is most frequently experienced by a caregiver but can also affect the dying individual.

It is important to not mistake anticipatory grief as a lack of faith or a negative attitude. Instead, it should be viewed as a natural human reaction. Anticipatory grief allows individuals time to absorb the reality of loss and address unfinished business such as saying “I love you,” or “I forgive you.”

Anticipatory grief affects the emotional, physical and spiritual being, but does not decrease the amount of grief felt after a death. It is important to remember that all individuals and families experience illness, grief and death in their own unique way.

Symptoms of Anticipatory Grief

According to The National Cancer Institute, the following aspects of anticipatory grief have been identified amongst survivors:

  • Depression
  • Heightened concern for the dying person
  • Rehearsal of the death
  • Attempts to adjust to the consequences of the death

Self Care for the Caregiver

It is crucial for caregivers and loved ones to participate in self care while experiencing anticipatory grief. Below are some specific things that you can do to care for yourself:

  • Talk with a professional, such as a social worker or clergy member, about your fears and emotions.
  • Attend the Caregiver Support Group at Winship.
  • Find little ways to care for yourself throughout the day like going for regular walks, getting plenty of rest and journaling.
  • It’s ok to take a break from cancer and from sadness. Give yourself permission to laugh with friends or see a funny movie.
  • Acknowledge that it is normal to experience a range of emotions during this process such as anger, confusion, sorrow and relief.

Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University offers supportive services to caregivers and patients throughout every stage of the cancer journey. Caregivers like Anna do not have to walk this path alone. The Supportive Oncology Team at Winship focuses on improving the quality of life for patients and families affected by cancer. Call 404-778-1900 to schedule an appointment with a member of the Supportive Oncology team.

About Maggie Hughes, LMSW
Maggie Hughes, LMSW, is a medical oncology social worker at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. Maggie assists patients at Winship by providing them with supportive counseling and practical resources. She facilitates the Pancreatic Cancer Support Group and the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Support Group at Winship. Maggie works with the genitourinary, gastro intestinal, breast, gynecological and sarcoma cancer populations. She has a passion for working with grieving families and is currently working on her certification in Thanatology through The Association for Death Education and Counseling. Maggie received her Master’s Degree in Social Work and Certificate in Marriage and Family Therapy from The University of Georgia. While a graduate student, Maggie received the Heather Christina Wright Scholarship for Social Workers in Oncology. Maggie has worked in the geriatric hospital setting and in the school system as a social worker.

Related Resources:

Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University offers The Purdom Chapel as a quiet place for reflection, prayer and meditation. The Purdom Chapel is located on the first floor at Winship and is open during regular clinic hours. Chaplains are available seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

Valerie Harper: An Energetic Will to Fight in the Face of Cancer

Valerie Harper Cancer DiagnosisWhat would you do if you were told you had an incurable disease and possibly only months to live? Actress Valerie Harper recently had to ask herself that question. This past January, Harper, best known for her role as Rhoda Morgenstern in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, was told she has leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, a rare form of incurable brain cancer.

Doctors told Harper, who already has battled lung cancer, that she could have as little as three months to live. Since going public with her news back in March, Harper has mentioned in several media appearances that she has gained strength from opening up about her battle with cancer. In an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan, Harper displayed great courage and an even greater attitude when asked about her devastating diagnosis. “There’s other ways to handle it than just sit on the couch and accept.”  Through her actions, Harper has demonstrated that she is doing anything but ‘sit on the couch and accept.’

Now, eight months since her diagnosis, Harper has yet to slow down. Instead, she is doing book tours and TV appearances, exercising and even starring in an upcoming TV movie, set to air January 2014.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of willpower is “energetic determination,” while the Cambridge American English Dictionary defines it as “the ability to control your own thoughts and behavior, especially in difficult situations.”

A cancer diagnosis affects each patient and his or her family members differently. Some people may enter a state of severe depression, while others go about their normal activities while only stopping to receive treatment. For Harper, energetic determination is the key to making sure every day is the best it can be.

What are your thoughts on Valerie’s reaction to her earth-shattering diagnosis? Do you think her willpower has anything to do with her outlook on life, or could it be her coping mechanism?

At Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, we understand that life after a cancer diagnosis can be anything but ordinary. Because of this understanding, we have developed our survivorship program to meet the needs of cancer survivors at any stage of cancer, from diagnosis to post-treatment. For more information on the Winship Survivorship Program, email survivorship@emoryhealthcare.org or call 404-778-0572.

Related Resources:

Caregivers of Cancer Patients Need Care Too

Cancer Caregivers SupportFamily members and close friends often take the role of a “caregiver” when a loved one is diagnosed with cancer and begins the cancer treatment process. The caregiver provides physical and emotional care for the cancer patient. Although the caregiver takes this responsibility on in love, they can also easily burn out. The stress and consequences of caregiving can take a toll on both the patient and the caregiver. Some signs that the caregiver might be experiencing caregiver stress or burn out include:

  • Change in weight
  • Change in the amount or pattern of sleep
  • Feelings of anxiety or depression
  • Increased anger or frustration
  • Lack of time for their own needs
  • Feeling overwhelmed or trapped
  • Feeling misunderstood or unsupported
  • Missing or delaying their own medical care
  • Stopping routine exercise, socialization or other healthy daily activities
  • Increased alcohol or drug use

It is imperative that caregivers take care of themselves and not feel guilty about doing this. If the caregiver is not healthy, he or she will not be able to effectively care for the patient either. Some suggestions for caregivers to reduce burnout and improve self care:

  • Reduce Personal Stress -Recognize the symptoms of stress, identify the source of stress, identify what you can and cannot change and take action.
  • Set goals – We are more likely to achieve goals if they are broken into small steps. An example – I will walk 15 minutes every day.
  • Seek Solutions – Once you have identified a problem, taking action to solve it can change the situation and also change your attitude and give you more confidence.
  • Communicate Constructively – Use “I” messages instead of “You” messages, respect the rights and feelings of others, be specific and clear, be a good listener.
  • Ask for and Accept Help – Be honest with yourself and ask for and accept help when needed.
  • Talking to you Physician – Ask for medical advice when you don’t understand the needs of the person receiving care but also seek medical support for yourself.
  • Start to exercise – Exercise promotes better sleep, reduces tension and depression, and increases energy and alertness.
  • Learning from your emotions -Emotions are useful tools for understanding what is happening to us. So, pay attention to them.

Caregiving can be a personally fulfilling and rewarding experience. Take care of yourself in order to best care for your loved ones. They will appreciate your love and care and understand your needs as well.

About James Hankins, MSW, LCSW
James is the Director of Patient Support and Social Services at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. James specializes in providing support and counseling services for patients and their caregivers dealing with all types of cancer. He graduated from Michigan State University and received a Masters in Social Work from Wayne State University. James has spent the majority of his 20 years of professional service focusing on mental health issues related to changes in physical health with special emphasis on the challenges facing caregivers.

Related Resources:

Sign-up to Learn the Biology of Cancer

biology-cancerHave you ever wondered about the biology behind cancer? If so, join Assistant Professor of Hematology and Medical Oncology, Gregg Orloff, Ph.D, on Tuesday, August 6 at noon for an interactive, live, web chat on the “Biology of Cancer.” He will be available to discuss questions such as:

  • What is cancer?
  • What causes cancer?
  • What can you do to prevent cancer?
  • How is cancer diagnosed and treated?
  • What is the role of infectious organisms like viruses in cancer?
  • Why and how cancer spreads.
  • Why do cancer drugs not always work.

This interesting chat will open your eyes to what cancer is and what you can do to help reduce the chances that you or your family members will be diagnosed with the disease.

Chat Sign Up

The Effects of Chemo and Radiation on Survivors Web Chat

I am a survivor. I beat Ewing’s sarcoma, a childhood cancer, which I was diagnosed with at 8 years old. I fought the cancer with an intense treatment plan that included 6 weeks of radiation therapy followed by 7 cycles of multi – agent chemotherapy. As a result of the aggressive treatment plan, I developed heart failure and ultimately had to receive a heart transplant. I beat the odds and am here to tell my story of survivorship!

Join me on Tuesday, February 19 from 12-1pm for a live, interactive chat about weathering the storms of cancer. Despite the side effects that have impacted my life greatly, long after the completion of my therapy, I am bubbling with hope and smiling about thoughts of my future.

About Stephanie Zimmerman

Stephanie is a patient and family advisor for the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. She is also a cancer and heart failure survivor and late effects cancer educator. She co –founded My Heart, yourHands, Inc., a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to equipping survivors with late effects after cancer treatment.

 

Related Links

Recap on Live Lung Cancer Chat with Dr. Suresh Ramalingam

Dr. Suresh Ramalingam, Professor/Chief of Medical Oncology from the Winship Cancer Insititute, recently conducted an chat pertaining to the leading cause of cancer deaths among both men and women, which is lung cancer.

As many of us are already aware, Dr. Ramalingam reminded participants that secondhand smoke is a known risk factor for the development of lung cancer. Given that exposure to secondhand smoke varies and is difficult to track, it’s also hard to quantify the exact risk second hand smoke has on a person. However, recent studies have shown that states in which laws are in place to restrict public smoking are beginning to report declines in lung cancer incidence.

During the live chat, Dr. Ramalingam also touched on lung cancer treatment options and noted that there is no one-fits-all approach to treating a disease like lung cancer. Ideal treatment methods vary based on the stage of the disease. For early stage lung cancer, surgery is considered the standard treatment, however Dr. Ramalingam noted that some researchers believe stereotactic radiation will one day replace the need for surgery. Dr. Ramalingam added that radiation can also be a very effective treatment option for patients who are not candidates for surgery due to medical reasons. Chemotherapy has shown effectiveness in nearly all stages of lung cancer.

There’s great news for former smokers and the concern of developing lung cancer. Once a smoker quits, the risk of lung cancer progressively decreases. (For a timetable on the benefits of quitting, check out our blog post here) Recently, lung CT scans have demonstrated the ability to save lives in patients who currently smoke, or who have a history of smoking. Dr. Ramalingam suggests that former smokers discuss their smoking history with their physician to see if a lung CT screening is appropriate.

If you would like more information about the causes, prevention and methods used to treat lung cancer you may review Dr. Suresh Ramalingam’s lung cancer chat transcript here.

For more information on lung cancer, check out the related resources below. To become a patient, you may visit the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University online.

Related Resources

The Role of Support Groups in Cancer Survivorship

Cancer Survivorship Peer Partners Web ChatAs an Oncology Social Worker at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, I provide resources and support to patients and their families throughout the cancer journey. During my first visit with a new patient, I often suggest that he or she try out one of the many support groups offered at Winship or in the community. The response I get from this suggestion varies depending on the patient from enthusiasm to absolute fear.  As a facilitator of two support groups at Winship, I am admittedly a strong advocate of joining a group. However, I understand the apprehension some feel towards sharing the ups and downs of the cancer journey with other people.

For those uncomfortable with participating in support groups, I often outline the benefits of using support groups as a method to cope and connect to others in similar situations. Research from The American Cancer Society provides the following about support groups:

  • Support groups can enhance the quality of life for people with cancer by providing information and support to overcome feelings of aloneness and helplessness.
  • Support groups can help reduce tension, anxiety, fatigue and confusion.
  • There is a strong link between group support and greater tolerance of cancer treatment and treatment compliance.
  • People with cancer are better able to deal with their disease when supported by others.

Dr. Sujatha Murali, Assistant Professor of Hematology and Medical Oncology at Winship, endorses the use of support groups. Dr. Murali states, “support groups are an integral part of treating the whole patient. At Emory, we believe in a multidisciplinary approach to cancer care, which not only includes physicians and nurses, but social workers, pharmacists, and nutritionists. We believe this approach results in the best chance of treatment success.”

Still not convinced joining a support group is right for you? Fortunately, support groups come in different forms and sizes. For those uncomfortable with face-to-face group settings, online or telephone groups are great alternatives. Some groups are lead by professional clinicians while others are organized by cancer survivors themselves. Groups can be disease, age or gender specific and some meet weekly, monthly or have no time limit at all.  With all these options available, there’s bound to be a support group to fit anyone’s needs! And if you’re still not sure where to turn, you can always contact me or other social workers at Winship with your questions or by using the comments field below. You can also join Joan Giblin, Director of the Survivorship Program at the Winship Cancer Institute in our upcoming online chat on the Cancer Survivorship and Peer Partners Program at Winship.

Interested in joining a support group, but do not know how to select the right one? The first step is to speak with your oncology social worker!  If you aren’t sure who your social worker is, simply ask your doctor or nurse to point him or her out. Most cancer centers have oncology social workers dedicated to support your psychosocial needs and overall well-being.  Some recommended and approved groups are available through the following sites:

To close, I’d like to share a quote I often share with my patients. It’s out of Mr. Fred Rogers’s book, Life’s Journeys According to Mister Rogers: Things to Remember Along the Way. He writes, “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we’re not alone.”

The cancer journey can be overwhelming, especially if traveled alone. The benefit of allowing others to provide support and care can be life-changing, and possibly life-saving. Join us as we kick-off some of our new support groups, including the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Support Group on Thursday, June 14, 2012. For more information, please see visit our website at http://winshipcancer.emory.edu/groups.

About the Author
Margaret “Maggie” K. Hughes is a Licensed Master of Social Worker at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. She works with Drs. Hawk, Murali, Kucuk, Carthon and El-Rayes. Maggie facilitates the Pancreatic Cancer Support group and co-facilitates the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Support Group at Winship.

Related Resources: