Some cancer patients and survivors want reassurance and understanding; some need to vent to others about their worries. All of them, though, hunger for knowledge — especially about the daily, practical challenges of living with cancer.
City of Hope staff members have listened, creating a series of support groups that cover an array of topics important to cancer patients and their family members and caregivers. These free groups bring together current and former patients and their supporters for discussions, how-to seminars, talks by physicians and other health-care providers, and a chance to connect with others in a similar situation.
Trained clinical social workers facilitate the sessions and ensure each meeting offers useful, specific information for patients and caregivers, such as improving appetite during chemotherapy or safely using complementary and alternative medicine. The sessions also give participants time to talk and share their stories, if they want to.
In recent months, social workers have started several unique new groups, reflecting the growing momentum of the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center, the umbrella group for all of City of Hope’s psychosocial and supportive care programs.
“Patients and their caregivers offer a special kind of respect, support and wisdom that only the initiated truly know,” said Matt Loscalzo, M.S.W., administrative director of the Biller Resource Center. “People in the same boat have instant rapport. These ‘wounded warriors’ transcend illness and find strength and hope in each other — and in themselves — that they may never knew existed.”
Loscalzo is one of the facilitators of a new, unique problem-solving group on Thursdays focused on relationships between men and women, whether they are husbands and wives, parents and children, brothers and sisters or supportive partners.
“Men and women are so different, but they both offer strengths in a relationship. Rather than focusing on the differences that can separate men and women during stressful times, we help participants build on their strengths so they can more powerfully support each other during illness,” Loscalzo said.
The male-female problem-solving group is just one new offering. Clinical social workers will begin a monthly support group in April for lung cancer patients from City of Hope and the community. Social workers also will launch a biweekly patient support group welcoming patients with any type of cancer at any stage of treatment.
Social workers also soon will resume a group dedicated to people who care for others with cancer — caregivers who are often forgotten but who need support and encouragement.
“Research has shown that groups led by skilled professionals can significantly improve patients’ quality of life,” said Nellie Garcia, M.S.W., director of the Clinical Social Work Department.
For some patients, the support groups form a source of stability, reliable information and deep friendships. “Knowledge is the best medicine you can get,” said Ron Thomas, 46, a kidney cancer patient. He values his kidney cancer support group so much that he drives from Del Mar, Calif., to attend the meeting each month. “At the support group meetings, not only do you get your knowledge from the guest speakers, but also from other patients who continue to support the group.”
Support group facilitators include Loscalzo, Karen Clark, Heather Ducksworth, M.S.W., Carol Kim, M.S.W., Nancy Moldawer, R.N., M.S.N., Carolyn Stoutt, M.S.W., Natalie Schnaitmann, M.S.W., and Rupinder Sidhu, M.S.W.
A growing list of groups
City of Hope offers an array of support and problem-solving groups. Unless otherwise noted,
please call 626-256-4673, ext. 62282, to register or learn more about a group. Groups are
open to patients in the community, as well as those from City of Hope.
Brain Tumor Support: Monthly (second Thursday, 6 to 8 p.m.), for patients and caregivers
Breast Cancer Support: Monthly (third Thursday, 6 to 8 p.m.), for patients
Kidney Cancer Support: Monthly (first Monday, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.), for patients and caregivers
Lung Cancer Support: Monthly (first Wednesday, 6 to 8 p.m.), for patients
Lymphoma Support: Monthly (first Thursday, 6 to 8 p.m.), for patients and caregivers, and
co-sponsored by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
Parent Bereavement Support: Monthly (first Tuesday, 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.), for parents who have
lost a child to cancer (call 626-301-8426)
Patient Support: Twice a month (second and fourth Tuesday, 1 to 2:30 p.m.), for patients with
Problem-solving: Series of four weekly meetings, March 27 to April 17, 6 to 8 p.m., for pairs
of male and female patients, caregivers and family members
Prostate Cancer Support: Monthly (fourth Thursday, 6 to 8 p.m.), for patients and family members
Sibling Bereavement Support: Monthly (first Tuesday, 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.), for children ages
6 to 12 who lost a sibling to cancer (call 626-301-8426)