Cancer Support Group and Education Classes Create Community for Patients

Dec 28 2023

As anyone who’s received a diagnosis or watched someone they love go through treatment knows, cancer is scary, taxing and, at times, isolating.

Many patients have a strong support network made up of family and friends. However, sometimes nothing can replace talking to and hearing from someone who is going through the same thing as you.

That’s why Molly Lysaght, a clinical dietitian (pictured above, left), and Katie Collier, a speech pathologist (pictured above, right), started a support group for their cancer patients at The Jewish Hospital – Mercy Health.

“Katie and I started this group for head, neck and oral cancer patients in February of 2023 to offer support to our shared patients we were co-treating,” Molly says. “We saw so many patients who needed more than just a clinic visit and we discussed how much they could benefit from hearing from each other, along with other medical professionals, to help them through their cancer journey.”

Regardless of where they are on that journey, patients from anywhere in the tristate area who have head, neck or oral cancer are invited to participate. The support group is designed to help at any stage, from the newly diagnosed, those in active treatment and post-treatment or in remission.

Support group meetings include a guest speaker who presents on topics that are relevant for cancer patients, such as oncology nutrition, speech language and pathology and cancer family care. These are also part of the schedule for 2024, as well as exploring self-care and quality of life with cancer.

However, Molly and Katie want to hear from the patients themselves about what they are interested in learning more about through these meetings.

Molly adds that attendance is flexible – patients are invited to stay as long as they like and drop in as often as they need to. Participation in the support group is also free, making it accessible to anyone who wants to join them.

“Our goal is to foster a community where you are provided the space to meet others who have either completed treatment or are currently undergoing chemo or radiation,” they said.

Katie says that when patients undergo radiation to the head and neck to treat their cancer, there tends to be both acute and long-term symptoms that are detrimental to the important functions of the throat, including changes in swallow function, voice and even breathing.

“It can feel extremely isolating for our patients when they are unable to consume meals with their loved ones, which often results in higher levels of depression,” she continues. “Our goal is to help our patients feel connected in those struggles so we can begin to break down the walls of isolation and promote a more positive outlook on their steps in recovery.”

And while cancer patients often benefit from a sense of camaraderie as they navigate this difficult time, they also need more information about the disease they’re facing.

That’s where the oncology education classes come in.

“Created for cancer patients facing any type of cancer, these classes are designed to equip patients with a better understanding of the disease and improve their health and wellbeing during the cancer treatment process,” Erika Ferriell, regional practice administrator for oncology services in our Cincinnati market, says.

These classes provide necessary clinical information, such as understanding vital measurements like blood counts and screenings, medications and nutrition. However, they also take a holistic approach and discuss topics like breathing and relaxation techniques and coping with cancer-related stress.

However, not all patients in cancer treatment are able to attend in-person classes. That’s why there’s the option to attend virtually.

“Additionally, an online library of content is in the works so patients can educate themselves at their own pace and on their own time, based on their own unique cancer journey,” Erika shares.

The head, neck and oral cancer support group meets the first Wednesday of every other month (except holidays) from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. The oncology education classes meet every first Tuesday of the month from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Both are in the Education Room of the Greenberg Infusion and Cancer Center at The Jewish Hospital – Mercy Health.

Learn more about the cancer care services we provide at Mercy Health.

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