It is normal to feel overwhelmed at first if you are diagnosed with cancer. You may have a range of emotions, from disbelief to fear or anger. As you process the diagnosis and develop an action plan, one of the best first steps is to identify a strong support system of family or friends you can count on. That's where a Clinical Social Work Program Specialist can make a difference.
Clinical social work helps the patient and family cope with a cancer diagnosis, navigate the treatment, face potential challenges, and access ongoing emotional, practical, social and psychological support.
"The goal of our clinical social work is to understand patients from an emotional, psychological, spiritual, and cultural health perspective. All of the elements that make someone a unique individual also factor into their treatment," said Melissa Sadikoff, LCSW, a Social Work Program Specialist at City of Hope's Newport Beach Fashion Island location. "We want to understand your values, goals, and who you are as a person; from there, we can know how to best support you in your journey. We see you as much more than someone who has cancer—we see you as a whole person."
Because every individual has different needs, cancer treatment must be comprehensive and personalized at the same time. These needs may be:
- Emotional: Helping someone find solace, belonging, and compassion during difficult times.
- Practical: Enabling the patient to overcome obstacles in daily life activities.
- Informational: Educating patients and families about cancer treatment and reducing confusion, anxiety, or fear.
- Social: Building trusting relationships with family, friends, and communities.
- Psychological: Helping a patient cope with illness while finding ways to enhance self-esteem.
- Spiritual: Supporting the ability to practice individual religious beliefs.
"City of Hope has a tradition of whole-person care, which means we are here to support you as an individual and walk alongside you,” Sadikoff said. “That walk begins the first time patients and families step through our doors, continuing throughout their treatment and for as long as we’re needed."
Sadikoff is in contact with patients' oncologists and the members of their care team, identifying resources, services and supportive care programs offered by our community partners which will benefit the patient should they choose to utilize them.
"We have strong relationships with resources in the community that are either near our patients' homes or can be engaged via telehealth, and we make those connections happen for patients who want them," Sadikoff said. "Much of our counseling and Clinical Social Work is being delivered in person, face-to-face during a patient’s clinic or infusion visit, which patients really appreciate.” For services like massage therapy, acupressure, or acupuncture, Sadikoff refers patients to community partners.
In some cases, Sadikoff can identify and initiate a support system patients didn't think they had. "As I talk to them, it sometimes comes to light that it's not that they don't have anyone, it's that they are afraid to ask for help," Sadikoff said. "So, I often focus on helping the patient know that it is okay to say they need help. They may be afraid they are going to be a burden to their family or friends, and it's my job to make sure they understand that there are people at City of Hope Newport Beach Fashion Island or others who do want to step up and walk with them."
Personalized, Life-Changing Support
Sadikoff told the powerful story of one patient who changed her situation dramatically.
Diagnosed with cancer at City of Hope's Duarte campus, the patient started going to the Newport Beach Fashion Island location to receive advanced care closer to her home in Orange County. She faced significant challenges coping with anxiety, depression and managing pain, among other physical and emotional issues.
"She was struggling with significant pain and feelings of anxiety and depression,” said Sadikoff. “She was having difficulty making her appointments due to low motivation and feeling overwhelmed by all of her medical needs.”
Sadikoff set to work, offering the patient guidance on setting modest, attainable goals. “I reached out to her and recommended starting with small steps at first. Together, we set the goal for her to get out of her pajamas every morning and get dressed. She had shared how this was a difficult daily task for her," Sadikoff said. “At the same time, I connected her with supportive care services through our community partners, and we worked hand in hand to offer her an individualized support plan.” Those services included counseling, psychiatry, supportive care medicine, pain management, and integrative medicine.
From that seemingly simple beginning, said Sadikoff, the patient improved tremendously in body, mind, and spirit. “Through the collaobration of City of Hope Newport Beach Fashion Island and our partners, this person was able to reduce the amount of her pain medications, her anxiety and depressive symptoms lessened, and she in turn was empowered to successfully access a range of supportive care services in the community and live better and more fully.”
Sadikoff said, "The life changes this woman achieved demonstrates how the partnership between Clinical Social Work at City of Hope Newport Beach Fashion Island and our community is creating positive impacts for our patients. It is a uniquely effective collaboration among good neighbors, one that sets us apart from what other outpatient oncology teams in Orange County can offer.”
As City of Hope Orange County expands its presence across the region with a 21st-century cancer campus and a network of advanced cancer care, Sadikoff looks forward to offering more patients access to comprehensive holistic care and supportive care medicine services under one roof. "Compassion is woven into our heart and soul. We're here for you to make life better and more manageable for you and your family."
Here is a selection of City of Hope online resources for supporting the body, mind, and spirit during cancer care:
- Dealing with the side effects of cancer
- Managing your emotions during cancer treatment
- Practical Concerns: Managing school, work, and home
- Social concerns and relationships during cancer
- Managing wellness activities
- City of Hope spiritual services
- Patient and Family Education Library
Hope is growing at City of Hope Orange County. Our new locations in Huntington Beach, Newport Beach Lido and Irvine Sand Canyon join City of Hope Newport Beach Fashion Island to form a four-location network of highly specialized cancer care. To make an appointment at any of our four Orange County locations, click here or call:
- Newport Beach Fashion Island: (949) 763-2204
- Newport Beach Lido: (949) 999-1400
- Irvine Sand Canyon: (949) 333-7580
- Huntington Beach: (714) 252-9415