By David Glick
For lung cancer patients, strength can come in numbers.
While the disease can bring on a sense of isolation — and some patients may even believe they’re at fault for their disease — these patients are actually far from alone at City of Hope. Many men and women going through the same experience share their progress and learn about ways to overcome their challenges together through City of Hope’s monthly lung cancer support group.
Rupinder Sidhu encourages and supports lung cancer patients through their treatment journey. (Photo by Alicia Di Rado)
“Lung cancer patients have unique psychological needs. They not only deal with the fears and concerns of a cancer diagnosis, but also sometimes the stereotype that they did this to themselves” due to habits like smoking, said clinical social worker Rupinder Sidhu, L.C.S.W., who facilitates City of Hope’s lung cancer educational group. “We want our patients to feel acknowledged and to know that they are not alone in their treatment.”
Sidhu is a strong proponent of ensuring that patients feel empowered during their treatment journey.
“When the loss of control over their body is so significant, I work to empower them in their attitude toward life and living — helping them create meaning, purpose and a sense of quality to their life even in the face of this illness,” she said.
Sidhu and her colleagues in City of Hope’s Division of Clinical Social Work incorporated feedback from City of Hope lung cancer patients to create the support group. She regularly invites doctors, nurses, rehabilitation therapists and other experts from the Lung Cancer and Thoracic Oncology Program, the Department of Supportive Care Medicine or the community to address the group each month.
Educational topics include useful tools like tips on eating a healthy diet during treatment and ways to use movement to support better breathing.
After the speaking segment, Sidhu guides participants in a discussion. “The focus is on patients sharing who they are or have become in the face of lung cancer, their survivorship attitude and what they want to impart to their peers,” she said.
Lung cancer presents unique challenges not only to patients, but also to those who care for them. Family members are encouraged to attend the support group, which emphasizes that caregivers are not alone and underscores the significance of their role to the patient.
The lung cancer support group meets the first Wednesday of most months of the year in the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center from 6 to 7:30 p.m. It's free and open to patients within and outside City of Hope.
For additional information or to register for the group, call 626-256-4673, ext. 62282. Preregistration is encouraged.
Life after a lung cancer diagnosis
The National Lung Cancer Partnership offers some helpful tips for living with a lung cancer diagnosis and treatment:
- Get a second opinion. Or even a third or fourth. Arm yourself with knowledge of all of your options, so you can make the best choices for yourself.
- Make healthy lifestyle changes. Eat well, drink plenty of water, exercise when you are able and get enough rest, both at nighttime and during the day.
- Become your own best advocate. Ask questions of your doctors and nurses. Bring a friend or family member to help you understand and take notes.
- Don’t let anyone steal your hope. And find doctors who share your hope for survival and are willing to fight right along with you.
The National Lung Cancer Partnership has more in-depth information on their website.