Resources and social support for dealing with cancer

Resources and social support for dealing with cancer

By Brian Aylward, BS, CHES
Health Education Specialist

Here at the Swedish Cancer Institute (SCI), we understand that individuals cope in their own unique ways, and that receiving personalized education and support is important in the healing process. For this reason, the SCI is devoted to providing complementary supportive services for newly diagnosed patients, those undergoing treatment, and those who have completed treatment, as well as their caregivers.

The SCI offers programs that promote education, hope, and healing. Many of these programs are offered free of charge, while others are offered on a sliding scale. These integrated care programs include:

  • American Cancer Society Patient Navigation: The American Cancer Society Patient Navigator helps patients find resources related to financial assistance, transportation, access to wigs and prosthetics, and much more.
  • Art Therapy: Art therapy is a confidential, supportive, and individualized experience for examining health issues through visual and verbal self-exploration.
  • Cancer Rehabilitation: Cancer rehabilitation integrates medical management of cancer treatment-related side effects with a variety of exercise therapies.
  • Health Education: The Swedish Cancer Education Centers offer complementary educational materials, innovative learning opportunities, and patient education classes.
  • Genetic Counseling and Testing: Genetic testing is available for individuals to determine their risk for developing certain cancers.
  • Massage Therapy: Massage therapy may help with cancer-related pain, fatigue and nausea.
  • Naturopathic Medicine: Combining modern science with natural remedies, naturopathic doctors are available for consultation and treat¬ment through coordination with the patient’s oncologist.
  • Nutrition Care Services: Nutritionists are available to help patients and caregivers make healthy dietary choices during cancer treatment.
  • Psychiatry: Psychiatrists help patients and caregivers maintain the emotional and mental well-being needed to cope with stresses of cancer.
  • Oncology Social Work: Licensed oncology social workers provide patients and caregivers ongoing counseling and assistance.
  • Support Groups: Support groups for patients and caregivers are offered weekly, creating an environment for people to share their feelings with others going through similar experiences. 

Patients often hear that it’s important to find a strong support system during and after treatment; this may include a partner, sibling, parent, child or close friend. These are the people patients rely on to help with decision making, emotional and spiritual support, daily tasks like transportation to and from appointments, and chores such as meal preparation.

However, it’s not only close friends and family that patients can rely on for support. There are many other channels to valuable information, guidance, and comfort. Many online social networking sites have been developed in the past few years that help connect patients with other patients or survivors that have had similar experiences. These sites create a platform for patients to engage in conversation with other people locally or nationally, and they can benefit greatly from these connections.

  • Caring Bridge is an online space where you can connect, share news, and receive support from your own health social network.

  • CancerCare is a comprehensive network of free support services including telephone, online and in-person counseling and support groups, resource referrals, education, and financial assistance.

  • Cancer Support Community is an online resource center for education, information, and social support services.

  • MetaCancer is a community of survivors and caregivers that provide an online community for patients diagnosed with metastatic cancers.

Patients may also benefit from other community support services. Numerous organizations offer education, support groups, resource sharing, and peer connections for those undergoing treatment or who have completed it. The SCI has partnered with many such groups to provide patients with a wide range of supportive services. The following are some of our community partners:

  • American Cancer Society
  • Cancer Lifeline
  • Gilda’s Club Seattle
  • Harmony Hills Retreat Center
  • Team Survivor Northwest
  • Thrive Through Cancer
  • Northwest Hope & Healing
  • Susan G. Komen – Puget Sound Affiliate
  • Young Survival Coalition

These organizations, along with the SCI, can connect patients, family members, and their caregivers to education and support services throughout the greater Puget Sound and beyond.

To learn more about services available at the SCI, call 206-215-3600 or toll free 855-XCANCER (855-922-6237), or visit www.swedish.org/cancer.

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