Psychosocial Support

The transition from cancer patient to cancer survivor is difficult. Cancer changes lives and its treatment and consequential side effects influence every corner of our patients’ lives. It’s understandable that distress can be considerable through all stages of the cancer continuum. These resources are links to help you lead patients toward support services that can help them navigate and ameliorate the emotional, practical, and physical challenges they face.

Clinical Practice Guidelines for Psychosocial Oncology

Elderly couple holding hands outdoors.The American Psychosocial Oncology Society (APOS) lists the current Clinical Practice Guidelines for Psychosocial Oncology on their website.  Included are the NCCN Clinical Guidelines for Distress Management, Survivorship Guidelines, and a link to the NCCN Distress Thermometer and Problem Checklist tools to use to distress level of cancer patients and survivors.

This APOS link also takes you to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) evidence-based clinical practice guideline for managing depression and anxiety in adult patients with cancer, as well as the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) Survivorship Guidelines.

ASCO Guideline for Screening, Assessment and Care of Anxiety and Depressive Symptoms in Adults with Cancer

The American Society of Clinical Oncology has established this process for adapting to other organizations’ clinical practice guidelines. This article summarizes the results of that process and presents the practice recommendations adapted from the Pan-Canadian Practice Guideline: Screening, Assessment and Care of Psychosocial Distress (Depression, Anxiety) in Adults with Cancer.

OncoLink’s Distress Screening Response Toolbox (DSRT)

DSRT is meant to be utilized after a patient has been screened for distress (for instance, by using the NCCN Distress Thermometer and Problem List). It provides printable problem-focused tip sheets, video education, and webinars for patients to  empower them with strategies for the self-management of distress. All content is free of charge to patients, caregivers, and healthcare providers.

This short video tutorial created by Penn Medicine’s OncoLink teaches how to use the Distress Screening Response Tools.

Center for Communication in Medicine

Speak Sooner™ ask questions now, live the answers program approaches the treatment and management of serious illness conversations that must begin with the patient. The Difficult Conversations Workbook (free downloadable PDF) helps patients understand and communicate their questions, concerns, and priorities so they can become more effective partners in their care.

Cancer Support Communities in Southwest Colorado & Northwest New Mexico

Though we are a group of small communities, we do have some supportive care programs for individuals who are going through different phases of cancer. Blueprints of Hope’s updated list of support organizations in our region includes support groups for grief and loss, caregivers, fertility, exercise, mentoring for hereditary cancers, and those which are specific to individual types of cancers. Building a community of supportive services for cancer survivors is a work in progress, so if you don’t find something that works for your patients, please let us know.

 

 

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Holding Courage Retreat

Ghost RanchTONI ABBEY | ONCOLOGY NURSE NAVIGATOR | JUNE 7 2016

Over the weekend we visited the Ghost Ranch to experience some of the awe-inspiring spiritual geology where Georgia O’Keeffe lived and painted in her lifetime. While there we discovered an incredible resource at Ghost Ranch specifically for cancer survivors – “Holding Courage Retreats,” which are designated as a week-long haven for women who are experiencing cancer.  Their goal is for women to “spend time in a positive process that melds inner reflection and creativity with spirituality through group discussion and sharing, guided mediation, massage, yoga, body and breath work, and art and music therapy.”  The program ends each day with a refreshing, star-filled sky of earned sleep within the majestic canyons and mesas which surround the Ghost Ranch.  For more information, please see Ghost Ranch Holding Courage Retreats or contact Deena and Maureen at HoldingCourageRetreats@gmail.com. The next retreat is August 21-August 27th 2016, and they will hold two more retreats in November of 2016.

What a wonderful gift to share with survivors in our region! Thanks Maureen and Deena for all your work to provide this wonderful experience for cancer survivors.

 

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Tools for Resilience

TONI ABBEY | ONCOLOGY NURSE NAVIGATOR | JAN 30 2016B&W Couple shutterstock_135636785 (2)

Wendy Harpham, M.D. is a 25-year survivor of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and a fierce advocate and mentor for helping patients become healthy survivors. She is a writer, and a national keynote speaker for cancer survivorship (I was privileged to listen to her speak at a Survivorship Conference in Minnesota.) She has written a wonderful book on resilience along the cancer realm titled Happiness in a Storm.  Along her journey of trying to become a “healthy survivor” she built upon the ‘Serenity Prayer’ or ‘Courage Prayer’ to help her face the challenges treatment and long-term survivorship represent. She credits this to Niebuhr’s work and a Talmudic proverb. This is her beautiful prayer that helped her heal: Read More

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Sugar: An Essential Macronutrient

Blueberries in a blue cupSUSIE YOUNG, R.D. | JULY 3 2015

“Does sugar feed cancer cells?” This is the most common question cancer patients ask me, my colleagues, and my peers. Sugar or glucose is an essential macronutrient and is the main energy source for every cell in our body. The brain, central nervous system, red blood cells, and muscle tissue depend on glucose to function properly. Despite all of the benefits of glucose, it continues to receive an image of being “the bad guy.” As Andrew Weil, MD states in a recent article, “I think there is a tendency to demonize whole groups of foods and macronutrients, such as carbs, grains and sugar. I don’t think that is a good trend.” The human body can break down a protein or a fat into glucose if glycogen levels run low. So what is the best dietary approach cancer survivors can adopt? To return to a healthy eating pattern and reduce undue stress, consider following these five steps:

1. Eat fruits and vegetables. Avoiding fruit or limiting vegetables because of the sugar content misses the point of a healthy diet. Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants and other cancer fighting compounds which is exactly what the body needs to fight off disease. This fear and restriction may increase stress, which in turn can increase blood sugar levels and decrease immunity.  Judith Payne, PhD RN, AOCN FAAN, from the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics in Madison published an article in the September 2014 Oncology Nursing Forum connecting stress and inflammation to cancer development and progression. Obsessing over the sugar content found in a potato or in an apple has the potential to increase glucose levels, increase inflammation, which in turn may increase the risk of some cancers. Read More

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Holy S _ _ _, You’ve Got Cancer: A Quick-Start Guide

A quick start guideTONI ABBEY | ONCOLOGY NURSE NAVIGATOR | JUNE 18 2015

Elana Miller, who is a physician, psychiatrist and writer was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic T-Cell Lymhoma. In her blog she writes about the integration of Western medicine, Eastern philosophy and holistic approaches to “help people live happier and fuller lives.” Through her experience, she has written a Quick-Start Guide for individuals whereby she shares her best material from her blog, and suggestions to find the tools to help cope with the challenges a new cancer diagnosis presents. Included in the e-book are two Tip Sheets:  “44 Ways to Make the Day of A Cancer Patient,” and, “11 Ways NOT to Help a Cancer Patient.”  To follow Elana’s blog and download a free copy of her “Quick-Start Guide” go to ZenPsychiatry.com.

 

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Sharing the Blessings We Hold in Our Hearts & Archiving Memories for Our Children

Child Hands Holding Soil in Heart ShapeTONI ABBEY, RN, OCN | FEBRUARY 18, 2015

I have read that the connection to where we came from can frame our vision of where we are going. It seems so naturally-occurring that that when we preserve memories, we organically enable our families to embrace their lives. Below I have listed some ideas to archive these memories for them.

1. Make a special box of memories and personal items for each child. Pin a note to each personal item with a memory attached it. For instance, “This was the outfit you wore when we brought you home from the hospital.”

2. Create a videotape of you reading your child’s favorite story to them. Not only will the memories of you reading together be enforced, but your child will have a lasting recording of your voice. Consider videotaping other ways you spend time with your children — laughing, playing, holding them, and praying with them. Every time your children replay these videos they will re-experience the feelings of your presence. Read More

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Creating Meaningful Family Moments while Facing a Cancer Diagnosis


happy boys go fishing on the riverTONI ABBEY, RN, OCN | JANUARY 7, 2015

Recently, we have been in a unique position of working alongside several families with young children. Some of these families are facing a serious and potentially life-threatening cancer diagnosis. Therein, there may be an acute sense of urgency to make and save memories with the family they love.

There are various methods of archiving special memories, but in the vein of the rigors of raising a family and facing cancer treatments, just the thought of preserving memories can feel exhaustive and overwhelming. With all of the incredible modalities available to record memories, if energy is at its ebb (which it usually is when treatment is at bay) we find that the easiest way to create memories may be by engaging the full range of your family’s senses. Read More

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Ease Through Aroma

ANNA-MARIJA HELT, PH.d | NOVEMBER 19, 2014

When you hear the word “aromatherapy”, what comes to mind? For some folks, it might be scented candles or smokey, incense-filled shops. For others, it may be a visit to their massage therapist or a walk in a sweet-smelling pine forest. Still others might be drawing a blank right now. Regardless of what popped into your head, did you know that aromatherapy may offer some relief for those undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment? Here are a few areas where essential oils may help. Just a small collection of oils can go a long way.

Nerve pain – Some chemotherapy drugs cause nerve damage (neuropathy), which can result in numbness, tingling or downright pain. To help with discomfort, add the following to 1 ounce of carrier oil (eg. olive, jojoba, almond): 4 drops of Roman Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis), 6 drops of Palmarosa (Cymbopogon martinii), 6 drops of Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens), 4 drops of Frankincense (Boswellia carterii) and 4 drops of Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia, Lavandula vera or Lavandula officinalis). Apply where needed several times a day. One ounce should last about a week or so. Better yet, have a loved one apply for you…for instance a gentle foot or hand massage. For cold fingers or toes, try substituting 4 drops of Ginger in place of Frankincense. Read More

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Surviving Cancer

Autumn country - woman walk dog in meadowSUSIE YOUNG, R.D.  |  OCTOBER 1, 2014

The word “cancer” experienced during a doctor visit is frightening, and the subsequent treatment truly changes a person forever. As a registered dietitian, I have patients ask me if specific diets or supplements “will cure their cancer.”  Below, I will list three common traits that are consistent among cancer patients who seem to do the best during treatment and who recover quickly once treatment has finished.

The most successful survivors I have seen follow three lifestyle patterns. Their success does not depend on the type of cancer, gender, stage of disease, or age – but rather the consistent pattern of these three things; decreasing stress, expanding diet variety and increasing fruits and vegetables, and exercising on a daily basis

1.  Decreasing stress – Successful patients will do two things to decrease stress; surround themselves with loving and supportive people and practice meditation and/or relaxation. This does not mean patients become dependent on others. Instead, they spend time with friends and family members who offer support, love, and respect. They also find time to relax and decompress every day. This mindfulness may just be 5 minutes of watching the birds out of your kitchen window: the key is to find the time to stop – and focus – on what is right in front of you.

2.  Increase variety of diet and eat more fruits and vegetables – The most successful patients eat a minimum of 5 vegetables and 2 fruits per day. There is always an ongoing debate about juicing or eating only vegetables and avoiding fruit due to its sugar content. The argument for either diet plan is unproven and can cause nutrient deficiencies and stress (see point #1). A far better way to eat is to include variety – eat broccoli, mushrooms, onions, berries, bananas, apples, melons, cabbage, Swiss chard, beets, potatoes – yeah, you get the picture. Eat it all, and if you want to become obsessive focus on adding variety. This rule is true for protein sources, dairy products, and whole grains. Eat it all and don’t feel guilty or create more stress.

3.  Complete some type of exercise on a daily basis, even if the exercise lasts 5 or 10 minutes. Exercise boosts the immune system, stabilizes blood sugars, maintains muscle mass, provides a social outing, decreases constipation, improves sleep patterns, decreases stress (see point #1), and improves overall mood and outlook.

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