August 9, 2022 by Adrienne Sylver
Surviving Cancer: Making the Most of Patient Support Services
At what point is a cancer patient a cancer survivor? It’s a question frequently asked of Darci McNally, LCSW, the director of oncology support services at Lynn Cancer Institute, part of Baptist Health.
“Each person identifies differently when they’re ready to call themselves a survivor,” explains Ms. McNally, an oncology certified social worker who oversees the wide range of programs at the Institute, which is based at Boca Raton Regional Hospital. “Some people ask, do I count from the day I was diagnosed? The date of my surgery? When does it begin? When does it end? How do I know?”
While the questions are complex, there’s a certain simplicity to the answer she offers.
“From the day that you’re diagnosed, you’re a survivor,” Ms. McNally says. “You don’t have to wait until you’ve completed treatment. There are people who never finish treatment, but they’re still surviving their cancer. Every day, from the day you get that diagnosis, no matter where you are in your cancer journey, you’re surviving — so you’re a survivor.”
Embracing the Individual
Because people have such differing needs, Lynn Cancer Institute offers many educational and therapeutic options in addition to its leading edge, comprehensive cancer care using the most up-to-date technology.
“The philosophy is we’re treating the whole person here,” McNally says. “We’re not just treating a body part. You’re not a lung, you’re not a pancreas. You’re not a breast. You’re a whole person.”
Consideration for a patient’s quality of life is a key component of care at Lynn Cancer Institute, says the Institute’s director, oncologist Louise Morrell, M.D.
“I can’t overstate the importance of the psychological support, of our emotional support and assistance with practical matters. We have the most dedicated and experienced team to help with that,” Dr. Morrell says. “Our goal is always to offer the patient the best cure, the best outcome, but there might be different ways to get there. What are the considerations of the patient?”
It’s all part of Lynn Cancer Institute’s emphasis on precise, personalized care that is guided by science and technology — and heart, Dr. Morrell says. “Our advances in science and treatment go hand in hand with our understanding that you are an individual person.”
Services are available, most for free, to those undergoing treatment. “For those patients who complete treatment, they’re welcome to continue to utilize our services for up to one year post-treatment to help them assimilate back into life after cancer,” Ms. McNally says.
One of the objectives is to inspire confidence as patients move forward. “We don’t want their entire identity to always be, ‘I’m a cancer person.’ If you’re able to actually officially graduate, we want you to graduate,” Ms. McNally explains. “We provide you that cushion, that bridge. But then we want you to fly, be free.”
Making the Most of Patient Services
Some people might not feel comfortable asking for help or participating in group activities, but they are encouraged to at least explore the offerings. Ms. McNally says patients sometimes discover something they want to permanently add to their lives: yoga, meditation, fitness classes, better nutrition, improved communication, deeper friendships.
Ms. McNally says she tells patients, “The same way you have the courage to come in every day and take your treatments, have the courage to see what other things can help support you, your wellness, your treatment plan. It isn’t just about the medicines. It’s all of this.”
Some of Lynn Cancer Institute’s programs include:
• Support groups. The wide range of offerings includes groups to address day-to-day living, the challenges of metastatic disease and caregiver support. There are also separate monthly meetings forpatients diagnosed withbreast, gastrointestinal and lung cancer. For more information, call 561-955-5406.
• Wellness programs. From art and music therapy to meditation, Reiki, massage and onco-acupuncture, these offerings aim to boost feelings of wellbeing. There are even regular sessions to share beauty techniques for women. Space is limited in most programs. For more information, call 561-955-5406.
• Nutrition guidance. Eating well is especially important during and after treatment. Lynn Cancer Institute offers a regular nutrition support group as well as individual counseling. Monthly classes and cooking demonstrations can also help. For more information, call 561-955-5637 or 561-955-2184. Or, visit BRRH.com/CancerNutrition.
• Cancer survivorship education series. Educational seminars help guide patients who have recently completed treatment, as well as their families and friends. Learn what to expect after treatment ends, how to adapt to your “new normal” and transition into survivorship. To register, call 561-955-5406.• Oncology yoga and exercise. Moving and stretching not only helps you feel stronger, research has shown it can boost recovery. For more information or to register for oncology yoga or cancer-related exercise programs, call 561-955-5406. Additional virtual offerings are available through Baptist Health Community Education