Cancer Support Services

A diagnosis of cancer can be devastating for both the patient and his or her family. Family roles may suddenly change. Underlying problems may come to the forefront.

Life can start to feel like an emotional roller coaster. Some of the common emotions, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), include:

  • grief, sadness, loss
  • fear, stress
  • anger, guilt
  • confusion, distraction
  • disbelief, denial

There may be financial worries as well as emotional ones. In addition, NCI says mental or emotional problems such as anxiety or depression may develop or worsen in patients and family members who are already affected by these disorders. All of these things can generate a host of conflicting emotions for everyone involved.

NCI says your body may react to the stress and worry of having cancer with physical changes too, including:

  • faster heartbeat
  • headaches or muscle pains
  • feeling shaky or dizzy
  • feeling sick to your stomach
  • sleeping too much or too little

Patients

Patients may feel alone and misunderstood by friends and relatives. The American Cancer Society says they may be under huge amounts of stress trying to continue working while going through their cancer treatments. Or they may be frustrated because of their inability to continue working and providing for their families. They may feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities and physically exhausted at the same time.

Family members

ACS says loved ones are affected too. Family members may feel helpless, and even resentful over what's going on. When a child has cancer, parents may fear letting him or her out of sight. An adult cancer patient's young children may not understand all the upheaval around them. Older children may feel guilty because they want to go on with their normal lives. Family members may even feel anger at the patient for getting sick, and then feel angry at themselves for even thinking that way.

Finding support

Many experts feel it's important for families to discuss their conflicting emotions. Some families may be able to do this themselves. But many may need some kind of outside assistance.

Hospital social workers or therapists can be a great help in this area. They can help patients and their families understand some of the changes they're experiencing. Hospital social workers can also provide referrals to mental health professionals in the community who are trained in this area.

Many county health departments also include psychological services and/or referrals. Community service organizations and local clergy members can offer help in this area too.

In addition, many patients and family members find self-help groups to be a wonderful resource. NCI says support groups have been shown to improve mood, encourage the development of coping skills, improve quality of life and improve immune response. These groups can provide a place for patients and their families to interact with others who are dealing with or have dealt with cancer. Many people find that it helps to talk about their emotions with others who can directly relate to their feelings. Self-help groups can also be a source of support for those who don't have a strong network of family or friends.

Nurse Navigators

Our Nurse Navigators provide a wide range of education and support on a one-to-one basis and in groups. Our nurses are available to patients and families from initial diagnosis throughout the cancer experience.

For more information please call:

  • Paul Miller, RN, OCN, at 926-6629
  • Vickie Yattaw, RN, OCN, at 926-6639
  • Lisa Haase, RN, OCN, at 926-6563



More Cancer Information:

Signs of Cancer
Medical Oncology
Radiation Oncology
Prevention & Detection



For a list of individual types of cancer, see Types of Cancer