Oncology patients receive ongoing support close to home

Health & Wellness

June 05, 2020

As IU Health continues to focus on safety measures for containing COVID-19, including social distancing, hospital caregivers have become creative with ensuring ongoing patient support.

By IU Health Senior Journalist, T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

The email came from a newly diagnosed cancer patient. She was seeking support – someone to talk to during her time of isolation. She was scared and concerned. She wanted to connect with someone.

That’s exactly the goal of IU Health cancer resources – to help patients stay connected.

“Support groups and personal connections are such an important part of individuals’ cancer journey and resiliency,” said Lindsay Syswerda, manager of CompleteLife Program and IU Health Cancer Resource Center. These programs provide patients with information and education to help them navigate their cancer journey.

Those services include assistance with transportation and finances, wig fittings and complimentary music, art, and yoga therapies, and connection through cancer support groups.

With extended hospital restrictions, the support groups have taken a new approach – meeting virtually. Every month the First Mondays Cancer Support Groups meet via WebEx – from the safety and security of their homes. Specific groups include support for patients with brain tumors, patient caregivers, patients living with any type of cancer, patients with multiple myeloma, women with cancer, and patients with blood cancer.

Each group includes a healthcare professional, a mental health professional, and a facilitator. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 restrictions, Michelle Hoy, oncology social worker at IU Health West has assisted with the blood cancer support group.

The next “First Mondays” support group will meet virtually at 6 p.m. July 6, 2020. Each group will be assigned their own meeting code and will be led by their facilitators. Patients interested should contact the CompleteLife offices at: 317-944-0301, CompleteLife@iuhealth.org.

“The number of participants in the blood cancer support group to date, speaks volumes,” said Hoy. The average attendance is 14 patients, ranging in age from 30 to 80. The participants have come to know names and faces and share similar stories of their cancer journey, said Hoy. “I think people are a little timid in the beginning if they haven’t had experience with the technology component but we are there to help them and will even offer a practice run before the group meeting if they need it,” said Hoy. “A lot of our patients would be nervous to come to a live group because their immunity is compromised so this offers the support they need without putting them at risk. Lot of people are saying they haven’t seen family in weeks and they crave that connection,” she added.

Group members have cried together and shared their fears of going to radiation and chemotherapy alone. They have also shared informative books, and common interests.

“A lot of what we’re seeing in the virtual group is the same things we’re seeing in any group. A big advantage is that the patients typically drive from all over the state to seek treatment and also take part in a support group. This has the potential for growth because they are secure in their home environment,” said Hoy.

Other virtual cancer support groups offered by IU Health include:

  • Yoga Strength & Movement, 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays; Outdoor yoga, noon Thursdays.
  • New – Virtual Cancer Support Group for patients and caregivers, Wednesdays at noon.

To register or learn more about these support groups contact Michelle Hoy (317) 217-3391 or by emailing mhoy@iuhealth.org.

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