City of Hope classes help smooth the transition from cancer patient to cancer survivor

February 14, 2013 | by Hiu Chung So

The number of cancer survivors has been steadily increasing, due in part to increased awareness of symptoms, improved screenings and, of course, better treatments. There are now approximately 12 million cancer survivors in the United States, greater than the population of New York City.

But although the physical treatment eventually becomes a thing of the past, returning to a “normal” life isn't always a cakewalk for newly minted cancer survivors. Only now are social workers, psychologists and other health-care workers turning their attention to cancer's long-term impact. City of Hope specialists are among those leading the way.

To help survivors through the complete recovery process, the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center has partnered with Cancer Support Community and LIVESTRONG Foundation to organize a series of six weekly, interactive classes for people who have recently completed treatment.

“We have put together this program because of the questions that we have heard from new survivors,” said Linda Klein, manager of operations at the Biller Patient and Family Resource Center. “Many have a general fear of recurrence and want to know what they can do to stay healthy, and others may encounter communication and emotional issues after this life-changing experience.”

Additional concerns that survivors have focus on returning to work after cancer treatment, how to coordinate and manage follow-up care, and handling issues with health insurance, Klein said.

To help address these matters, and more, Cancer Transitions: Education, Support and Empowerment for Life after Treatment will tackle the following topics, with advice from the Cancer Support Community:

  • Taking control of your survivorship - "Even if your cancer recovery is complicated, you can find small goals and pleasures in your life."
  • Customized exercise for wellness - "Overall, regular exercise is shown to improve physical functioning and quality of life, ideally to help you manage physical effects after treatment . . . Even mild exercise can help in small ways."
  • Emotional well-being: From patient to survivor - "Learn about the common feelings that many cancer survivors experience after treatment, recognize when you need more support with emotional issues [and] know where to get support and how to move forward."
  • Nutrition beyond cancer - "Since obesity has been linked to poor prognoses for cancer survivors, eating reasonable portions of a well-balanced diet can help you maintain a weight that’s healthy."
  • Relationships and intimacy - "Cancer can actually improve the intimate relationships in your life . . . you and your partner may even become better lovers as you re¬learn to give each other pleasure despite a sexual problem."
  • Medical management beyond treatment - "Since so many people are living longer post-cancer, the detection and treatment of late effects is becoming a more important component of cancer care . . . Ask what your specific risks are, how your doctor will monitor them, and what you can do to minimize future problems. "

The subjects may sound broad, but Klein said that each session will be tailored to the needs of the participants, incorporating experts from supportive care medicine, nursing, rehabilitation and nutrition services.

“This won't be a lecture and PowerPoint presentation, there will be workshops, activities and even take-home assignments, all designed for our attendees’ questions or concerns and to help prepare them for their post-treatment lives,” Klein said.

The Cancer Transitions classes will take place on Thursdays from Feb. 21 to March 28, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. To sign up, you must be 30 or older and out of active cancer treatment for up to two years. There is no cost to attend, but registration is required. Contact Linda Klein at (626) 256-4673, ext. 60517, or email [email protected].

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