As clinicians, we are trained to treat our patient’s medical conditions. Of course, we understand the importance of treating the whole person. One of the benefits of working at Fox Chase Cancer Center is the phenomenal support for our patients provided by our Social Work department.
Fox Chase social workers have a great relationship with many community-based organizations designed to support patients and their families. Most of these groups rely on the support of the community for funding, including HCM Foundation, a local non-profit organization that provides opportunities and financial support to cancer patients, survivors, and their families.
I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to a remarkable young man, Mike Marsteller, who established the HCM Foundation after working in the Fox Chase Fitness Center (which, unfortunately, is no longer in existence).
Mike isn’t your typical 29-year-old. This Emmaus, PA native has integrated his past learning experiences to help families who are significantly impacted by cancer, including many Fox Chase families. According to Mike, he thrives on staying active, whether he’s running, cycling or living a healthy lifestyle.
Fox Chase social workers, such as JoAnne Rufo, connect appropriate patients in need of financial assistance to HCM. “Mike’s foundation has been helping our patients for a couple years now and has been an invaluable resource for all of the social workers,” says JoAnn.
If you want to join the HCM family and support its mission, please join them for the Fox Chase Away Cancer 5K Run/1.5 Mile Walk on Saturday, August 4, 2012 at Saint Basil Academy, which is located at 711 Fox Chase Road, Jenkintown, PA. Registration is $20 in advance, $25 on race day. Children under 12 are free. All proceeds will benefit patient care at Fox Chase, as well as programs offered by the HCM Foundation. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. and the run/walk begins at 9 a.m. For more information, visit www.hcmfoundation.org.
Every so often, I learn that one of our patients is making a difference in the lives of others. Today, I have the honor to re-introduce you to Margaret Zuccotti (a guest blogger last year). A former teacher and avid reader, Margaret launched the Louise S. Mauran Book Fund at Fox Chase to provide supportive books to cancer patients with families of their own. She values every moment she can read with her children and hopes that her project will help others as they cope with their disease.
Be well, Bob
As parents, we often find ourselves having difficult and sometimes awkward discussions with our children about growing up. The conversations cover a wide range of topics, and it is almost always impossible to have all the answers. Sometimes, just knowing how to respond to the initial questions is a struggle. How much should we tell them? How much do they really want to know? Do we lay out all the details or just avoid information altogether? It is hard to gauge how much information to share with young children.
Sharing the news of a cancer diagnosis may be the toughest of all those conversations. While divulging all the details of a diagnosis may, at first, seem frightening, being honest is of the utmost importance. If you don’t tell the truth about your situation, your child may create a scenario which is bigger and more awful than the reality of what you are dealing with.
There is a new fund at Fox Chase Cancer Center to help parents and caregivers deal with challenging cancer conversations. The books in the Louise S. Mauran Book Fund at Fox Chase will provide parents wtih a healthy starting point for discussing cancer. There are six titles now available to any family at Fox Chase, free of charge, who is receiving treatment. The books touch on a variety of topics related to cancer treatments such as hair loss, fatigue, appointments, surgery and sadness. Many of the books remind children that they can’t “catch” cancer or cause a loved one to get cancer. Most importantly, the books emphasize that talking about worries and fears regarding cancer can be helpful to everyone.
I started the fund because I want to help young children as they cope with a parent’s cancer diagnosis. I hope that these children will see that while cancer treatment will affect life at home, it will not change how much we love them. Mothers and fathers try so hard to maintain the normal routine while juggling the many aspects of cancer. Books given to families through the Louise S. Mauran Book Fund will hopefully ease that burden.
The fund is just beginning to touch the lives of patients at Fox Chase. The professionals in the Department of Social Work will hand out the books to patients upon request. It is our hope that the doctors, nurses and staff at Fox Chase will refer patients to the social workers who will present the books to their patients. I want the stories to help patients manage this crummy situation a little better so that they can focus on other things that matter in life.
Margaret Mauran Zuccotti, M.Ed.
Diagnosed Stage IV Breast Cancer, 2006
Robert Burger, MD, Director, Women’s Cancer Center at Fox Chase Cancer Center
Hearing that you have cancer is one of the most life-changing pieces of news you can receive. You will suddenly have a list of decisions to make, from where to go for care to what course of treatment you feel most comfortable pursuing. Perhaps one of the most challenging decisions, however, will be how to discuss your cancer diagnosis with your child. New research shows that 18 percent of newly diagnosed cancer patients are parents to one or more minor children. With numbers like this, Fox Chase knew it was essential to provide resources to help families navigate this new phase of life. I’ve invited Luanne Chynoweth, Director of Social Work Services at Fox Chase Cancer Center, to introduce you to some of the resources we provide for patients, as well as some tips on talking to your child about cancer.
‘Life can change in a second. Social workers are here to help.’
In Social Work Services, we have a motto: ‘Life can change in a second. Social workers are here to help.’ And how quickly life changes after learning you have cancer. When you are the parent of a young child, many thoughts and emotions arise: You worry about what and how much to tell your child, and how he or she will react. You feel vulnerable and scared of how the disease will affect your parenting, and you may even be angry this is something with which your family has to cope.
Along with eight other social workers, it’s my job to look past the physical care of the individual patient (your doctors have that covered!) and focus on these psycho-social aspects of cancer – how you feel about being diagnosed with cancer and how those who love you feel about it.
To provide an outlet for your emotions, Fox Chase offers individual and family support services, such as a six-week support group for cancer patients who are parents of children. Mothers and fathers in this weekly group generally range from mid 30s to early 50s, and their children, ages 7 to 12. (More information on Kids’ Night Out)
Children meet in a separate room from their parents to participate in games and activities designed to let them express their feelings. As for the patients and parents, I have two core missions within the group: First, to give them a space to air their fears and joys as well as build a network of other people who are experiencing similar issues; and secondly, to educate them and arm them with tips to navigate this new facet of parenting.
The StrongTogether community is an excellent example of the type of community I hope to provide cancer patients through our support groups. As for the education component, I’d like to briefly share some of my essential tips for parents struggling with communicating with their child:
Of course, it is easy to provide these suggestions, but putting them into practice will be a work in progress. Social Work Services is here to guide you through each step – every up and down.
During my 20 years at Fox Chase, I’ve learned a lot about the power of the human spirit in the face of tremendous hardship. I’ve met countless families going through this difficult period after a parent’s diagnosis and have seen them come together in truly inspiring ways. Whether you have just been diagnosed with cancer or are in the later stages of care, I encourage you to take advantage of our support resources. Because your life may have changed in a second, but your family’s love is forever.
All the best,
Director of Social Work Services