Newly Diagnosed with Cancer: Finding Support
Kristin Scheeler, MSSW, OSW-C, is an oncology social worker at the UW Carbone Cancer Center. She offers suggestions for how to take care of yourself throughout the cancer journey.
When you are told you have cancer, your head is likely spinning and you are bombarded with information and statistics about your illness and treatments. You may ignore or not even realize you need emotional, spiritual and practical support until long after your treatment is finished. Take care of yourself and consider if the following supports will help you as you go through your cancer journey.
- One-on-one: Through an organization like Imerman Angels or 4th Angel Network, you can speak to someone who has been through the same cancer and treatment
- Groups: Through your health care provider or a stand-alone organization like Gilda’s Club or Cancer Support Community, you can connect with others who understand and can share tips, tricks and ideas for maintaining wellness
Mental Health Support
Mental health support may be helpful particularly if you are anxious, depressed, or have other mental health concerns that do not ease within a week. Psychologists or licensed clinical social workers may be able to provide therapy services that are helpful. Call your insurance company for a list of approved providers.
Social workers are often able to help with the following practical concerns:
- Making sure you have and can maintain health insurance throughout the cancer journey
- Understanding disability policies or applying for Social Security Disability
- Deciding whether to continue working through treatment
- Understanding legal workplace rights
- Organizing offers of assistance from friends and family who say, “let me know if you need anything”
- Learning about your sexual health as you receive and recover from cancer treatment
- Connecting to support networks related to your specific situation (young adult resources, how to talk to children about your cancer, spousal/caregiver support, diagnosis-specific or geography-specific financial support)
- Arranging transportation to appointments as needed
- Referring to organizations who may provide cash or in-kind grants to assist with basic needs while going through cancer
- Completing advance directives or advance care planning to let doctors know your decisions about medical treatment and understand your health care decisions
- Sorting through emotional experiences through brief counseling
- Referring to books, websites, movies, etc., depending on what you would like to learn more about
- Teaching basic relaxation and stress reduction skills
- Navigating the health care system from diagnosis to survivorship
Registered dieticians are helpful in helping you maintain a healthy diet and preserve your strength.
Integrative medicine may be helpful by offering the opportunity to receive:
- Acupuncture, which involves tiny needles inserted into your skin by a trained professional, which may lessen many symptoms related to cancer and cancer treatment
- Healing Touch, which involves gentle touch, safe for most people, meant to provide emotional and physical balance and relief of symptoms
- Meditation instruction, which may help with stress management and relaxation
Always consult with your doctor if you decide to take supplements such as herbs or vitamins of any kind or are planning on embarking on a new exercise regimen.
Don’t wait until after your treatment has ended to seek out support; a wealth of information and assistance is available, usually for free or low cost.
Kristin Scheeler, MSSW, OSW-C, is an oncology social worker at the UW Carbone Cancer Center, who primarily works with our bone marrow transplant program. She offers a variety of free services to help those with cancer and their loved ones. Services include, but are not limited to, finding ways to cope with the cancer diagnosis, understanding federal and state disability benefits, searching for local resources, work place issues and support.