You Are Not Alone – You or Someone You Love Has Been Diagnosed with Cancer
During any difficult life circumstance, going it alone is not a healthy or even practical option. It helps to realize that there are resources available to guide and support you along the way. For the next few weeks, my column will feature the “You Are Not Alone” series of articles focused on different life-altering events and fulfillment of needs.
The social worker at my husband’s cancer center said that being diagnosed with cancer or having someone you love diagnosed with cancer is like “being dropped in the middle of a jungle with no jungle training.” I was so physically and emotionally exhausted at that moment that the message didn’t hit home right away. In the months and years ahead, however, it’s meaning became all too clear. I wish that I’d had the information that is in this column.
Along with many cancer-directed national and international organizations available online or by phone, people directly or indirectly in your life will usually be ready to offer prayers and help. When a loved one or friend is diagnosed with cancer, encourage the development of a necessary support structure around the patient and your family.
Many of us are too proud to ask for help from others. Get past that, and accept help with heartfelt gratitude. Do your research of support organizations. And, sooner rather than later, make a “third cousin Dave twice removed on my mother’s side” list. These are people that you know who can help. With this list, you can start organizing and defining resources. It may be as simple as transportation to and from appointments. There may be many critical needs in the weeks and months ahead.
Listed below are some general resource suggestions, if you or someone you love has been diagnosed with cancer:
General Cancer Organizations—These sites offer a wealth of great information about most cancer types. You can call them with any question—no matter how big or small. (I’ve always felt that the only stupid question is the one that doesn’t get asked and answered. These are wonderful people that are trained to be there for you.):
- American Cancer Society: www.cancer.org, 800-ACS-2345
- American Society of Clinical Oncology: www.cancer.net, 888-651-3038
- National Cancer Institute, www.cancer.gov, 800-4-CANCER
Another very important website will give you the annual caseload by cancer type for the facilities within fifty miles of any zip code. (The hospitals included in the Hospital Locator meet the specific guidelines and standards of the American College of Surgeons’ Commission on Cancer.):
- American College of Surgeons Cancer Programs, www.facs.org/cancer, 312-202-5085
Here is the direct link to look up annual caseloads by cancer type and stage: http://datalinks.facs.org/cpm/CPMApprovedHospitals_Search.htm
Enter the search information, and then select the Detail Facility Listing. Under “Hospital Information,” click on Annual Caseload for each of the hospitals. Unless that hospital hasn’t provided the information, the “Cancer Cases Diagnosed” screen will come up. By stage diagnosed, you can see in the “Total” column the total number of cases diagnosed in that year at each hospital. Do you want a hospital to treat you that has only diagnosed 50 cases of your type of cancer, or a more experienced facility that has diagnosed 250 cases? Experience may be a key factor in your fight for life.
Cancer Type-Specific Organizations—Most types of cancer have one or more support organizations that have very knowledgeable and friendly staff to either support you through their website or on the phone. The best database of these organizations that I’ve found is the National Cancer Institute. The listing is very comprehensive, and has both phone and website information. Go to www.cancer.gov, and then search “National Support Organizations”. Click on “National Organizations That Offer Cancer-Related Services”. Next, select your type of cancer and search.
One-on-One Cancer Support: Imerman Angels—Cancer survivor Jonny Imerman has developed a wonderful network of support for cancer fighters, survivors, and caregivers. This amazing group of trained volunteer angels carefully matches and individually pairs a person touched by cancer with someone who has fought and survived the same type of cancer. These one-on-one relationships inspire hope and offer the chance to ask personal questions and receive support from someone who is uniquely familiar with the experience. The service is absolutely free and helps anyone touched by any type of cancer, at any cancer stage level, at any age, living anywhere in the world. The connection can be made from the moment the cancer is diagnosed, and then last forever. Website is www.imermanangels.org, 877-274-5529.
Mental and Emotional Support for Patient, Family and Caregivers—These are resources such as social workers, counselors, and support groups. Your hospital or treatment center will have personnel available to help you through your mental exhaustion and the overwhelming stress involved in getting through any cancer crisis. Your community and local churches often have support groups available, too.
Financial Resources—A cancer battle can be financially challenging. Seek helpers to work with you to streamline your bills and/or identify financial aid programs. During tax season, I recommend a good tax accountant. This is one burden you definitely don’t need, especially when your head is full of more critical stuff.
There is no need too large or too small, and certainly no reason to take on the cancer burden alone. Reach out and make connections today.
Much of the information included in this article is from:
The Saving of Gordon: Lifelines to W-I-N Against Cancer
Based on Joni’s experience and years of research, this inspirational and informative book is designed to give families a fighting chance in their own cancer battle.
Would you like to send something special to someone that’s going through a health-related hardship? Why not send them a Basket of Care (www.BasketofCare.com)? These baskets are lovingly designed by a cancer survivor, and chock full of practical items that will lend comfort. Or what about a “Day at the Beach” basket for a child who is ill? A Basket of Care is just the way to say, “I care” anytime.