What We’re Reading: 5 Perspectives on Mental Health During a Cancer Journey
When it comes to cancer, treatment requires more than hospital visits and chemotherapy. It affects the whole patient, and mental, emotional, social, and financial challenges can play a significant role in someone’s ability to heal.
With our dedicated focus on the financial side of cancer, we also know how interconnected these challenges can become. When a family is forced to choose between paying for groceries or paying for treatment, the decision becomes a mental and emotional burden as well as a financial one.
In this edition of What We’re Reading, we’re focusing on wellness during cancer with articles, stories, and videos that highlight the emotional side of a diagnosis.
Referencing voices from the cancer care community, this article highlights the importance of social workers during cancer journeys. While doctors focus on medical treatment, social workers are trained to support patients with the physical, emotional, spiritual, mental, and social challenges that accompany a cancer diagnosis.
For Family Reach, those social workers are also critical to connecting patients to our financial support services, as they apply for our Financial Treatment Program on behalf of patients and caregivers. Their frontline support means we can reach more families across the country, and we’re endlessly grateful for the work they do.
Charlotte Ference, LMSW, from CancerCare joined GRYT Health, a digital oncology company focused on education, engagement, and support, to talk openly and honestly about stressors that are common during the cancer experience. She walks through emotions including the uncertainty around a diagnosis, scanxiety, post-treatment challenges, and lack of control around finances.
When you watch the recording or read the recap, you’ll also find out her advice on coping techniques, such as note-taking and journaling, breathing exercises, meditation, online communities, nonprofit resources, communication strategies with care teams, and more.
3. Conquering the Fears of Cancer Treatment: Dr. Marianna Strongin Tackles This Issue and More in Her New Column ‘Strong In Cancer’
Highlighting the importance of speaking about mental health as well as physical health when facing a cancer diagnosis, SurvivorNet launched a series with Dr. Marianna Strongin, a licensed clinical psychologist, to respond to submitted questions each week. The questions can cover an array of wellness topics, ranging from how to manage anxiety about your health to how to talk to your family about your diagnosis.
You can submit your questions here, or follow along each week to read Dr. Strongin’s responses to other cancer patients and caregivers. In this column, she offers advice about conquering the fears of treatment, saying “as you courageously make your way through this chemotherapy it is critical that your self-talk is supportive, patient, and overall kind. There will be moments of intense pain, discomfort, and even setbacks. Your body may be saying ‘no more’ but your mind has the power to kindly say, “you got this, one foot in front of the other, this pain is temporary.”
This recent study, published in CANCER, a peer-reviewed publication of the American Cancer Society, provided evidence that social needs can play a role in cancer journeys and outcomes. Of the 135 women included in the study, 65.2% of them had at least one unmet social need and 37.8% screened positive for psychological distress.
The social needs reported included help with reading hospital materials, needing someone to talk to, social isolation, housing instability, financial toxicity, food insecurity, and transportation.
With this data in mind, the researchers hope that programs to address unmet social needs will improve quality of life for cancer patients, lead to better health outcomes, and ultimately reduce healthcare disparities.
Elephants & Tea is a media company for adolescent and young adult patients, survivors, and caregivers with the motto “The Elephant in the room is cancer. Tea is the relief conversation provides.” Their ongoing series “Dear Cancer” opens their platform to the AYA community to submit their own letters, which can be therapeutic for many of those touched by a diagnosis.
In this raw and powerful letter to cancer, Sha’leicia writes “You stole my independence and freedom. You took my hair, my crown, my canvas to express myself. You took every penny from my bank account. You bruised my body and discolored my skin. You threw mortality in my face. You made me feel lonely and helpless. You make it hard for me to get out of bed some days. You make it difficult for me to recognize myself in the mirror. You put a dark cloud of anxiety over my head that looms there every second of the day. You compromised my immune system, my body’s strongest line of defense, during a deadly pandemic. Who does that?”
Sha’leicia goes on to talk about the lessons she learned from her experience and ends it on an inspirational bang that’s sure to leave you with a smile on your face.
Always walking the fine line between her right and left brain, Stevie brings her creative and strategic thinking to her role as Creative and Brand Manager. Through writing and design, she amplifies Family Reach’s voice and brings attention to the financial barriers that often accompany a cancer diagnosis.
Read these cancer stories to find out how housing insecurity affects the families we serve and how your support helps keep them in their homes.
Find out how our Young Professionals Council members raise funds and awareness, build their networks, and give back to their communities.
Healthcare professionals like hospital social workers, oncology nurses, and doctors can help bring cost conversations to the forefront of cancer treatment.