October 5, 2015 | by Robin Rauzi
Completing treatment for breast cancer produces a wave of relief — but one that can quickly be overwhelmed by feelings of anxiety and confusion. Together, the emotions add up to: “What now?”
The need for emotional and physical support doesn’t stop when treatment ends, said Linda Klein, manager of operations for the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center at City of Hope. Research and medical advances mean more people than ever before are surviving cancer, Klein said, “but that brings to light many new needs and concerns about living post-treatment.”
The need for follow-up support can be especially acute for patients who have undergone treatment for breast cancer.
“Breast cancer is more than a physical disease. It permeates a woman’s emotional, social, and spiritual well-being too,” said Michele Ochoa, L.C.S.W., clinical social worker in the Department of Supportive Care Medicine. “One of the most common themes I hear is the feeling they have lost control over their lives and their bodies. Even when treatment is finished, what seems like a joyous time is often clouded with uncertainty, fear and doubt.”
Already a leader in supportive care of cancer patients, City of Hope is now launching a new eight-week program called “Return to Wellness,” designed to tackle that big “What now?” question one topic at a time.
City of Hope experts will lead workshops in nutrition, health monitoring, long-term side effect management, body image, sexuality and intimacy, lymphedema prevention, meditation, spirituality, and more. Survivors will also participate in weekly strength training, restorative yoga and support group sessions.
City of Hope is “looking at cancer care from pretreatment and prevention to living post-treatment,” Klein said “Our goal is to help our patients and their loved ones find meaning and grow from this experience, empowering them to take back control of their health and well-being.”
To that end, Return to Wellness is more than a support group. It’s a tactical continuation of care.
For instance, a growing body of research, including work by Leslie Bernstein, Ph.D., professor and director of the Division of Cancer Etiology at City of Hope, has established that regular exercise substantially decreases the risk of cancer. Other recent studies have further validated the benefit of exercise specifically for people diagnosed and treated for breast cancer.
Research also shows that maintaining a healthy body weight is vital. Obesity and post-treatment weight gain increase the risks of recurrence and mortality from breast cancer. At the same time, exercise helps relieve daytime fatigue and nighttime sleeplessness.
With 16 fitness classes as part of the program, exercise just might become habitual for participants – at least that’s Klein’s hope
If this program is a success, Return to Wellness will be expanded to meet the diverse needs of different diagnoses and patient populations. Breast cancer survivors in their 30s, for instance, may be aided by sessions on fertility, dating, and career issues.
Likewise, Return to Wellness could become a template for men who have undergone treatment for prostate cancer.
After all, concluding treatment for any cancer isn’t the end – it’s just the beginning.
Next: Tips to help women regain a feeling of control.
“Return to Wellness” is a collaboration with the Cancer Support Community of Pasadena. The program is open to women who have completed treatment for breast cancer. Survivors need not be City of Hope patients to participate.
Return to Wellness, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 6 to 8 p.m. Sept. 29 to Nov. 19. Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center at City of Hope. Registration required. Please call 626-218-CARE (2273) or email [email protected].
When you come to City of Hope, you automatically gain access to an unparalleled array of support services to help you and your family take each step during and after your cancer treatment. Learn more about these resources at Living with Cancer.