Empowering Cancer Patients

The Patient Survivorship program is a tremendous example of what is possible when women advocate for themselves, for other patients, and their friends and family. Women with breast cancer wanted more information on their disease, the treatment, and the side- and after-effects of treatment. They also wanted programs to help them deal with the psychosocial impacts of having cancer—the emotional problems and the issues related to daily living.

  • What are my options when my hair falls out?
  • Will I still be able to look after my children while I am receiving treatment?
  • Will I be able to work?
  • Will I still be able to have sex with my partner, and what difficulties might I expect?

Today, the program is thriving, and each month there is a busy calendar of workshops helping to prepare patients for their surgery, radiation or chemotherapy. Plus, there are programs that help patients dealing with the side effects of cancer treatment including hair loss, fatigue, memory loss, bone health, and lymphedema. 850 survivors attended self-management workshops in 2009. There are also one-on-one consultations available to engage survivors in a process of guided self-reflection, helping them set goals and develop action plans.

Established originally for breast cancer survivors, many of the workshops are now available for all cancer survivors.

There are many examples of collaboration with other hospitals and other cancer support groups. Survivors are referred to exercise, nutrition and support workshops at Willow, Wellspring and Gilda’s Club.

  • Always seeking to provide new and better programs that help patients and their families, the team has created Helping Her Heal to assist male partners of breast cancer patients.
  • In partnership with the Portuguese community, a ‘breast cancer coach’ is being trained to support and deliver programs in Portugese.
  • Through a ‘people matching initiative’, survivors are given the opportunity to talk with other individuals who may share similar experiences.