For people going through a cancer journey, finding the right cancer support services — care that goes beyond the medical care or treatment they may be getting — can be crucial for maintaining their well-being. Connecting with others who have endured similar experiences, learning more about their specific diagnosis and what to expect, and getting access to other resources ranging from wig fittings to financial support can all make a huge difference.
“The goal of support services is primarily to help maintain – and restore – a patient’s emotional, physical, social and even financial health as they go through this new process,” says Ted Varkas, a social worker who works with cancer patients at Henry Ford Health.
Where is the best place to start?
With seemingly endless places to look, finding the right support services can be overwhelming. After a diagnosis, many patients want to learn as much as they can about their condition, Varkas says. So where’s the best place to look?
For many, the best place is online.
“There is so much information online for those looking for more information about their cancer type, treatment options and more,” he says. “You just really need to make sure you’re looking at reputable sites.”
Some popular, reliable sites include:
Larger institutions may have internal resources such as support groups and wellness programs, charity funds, or access to an oncology social worker, psychologist, dietitian, or other supportive oncology care providers. There are also often numerous local support services patients can take advantage of. It’s helpful for patients to talk with someone from their cancer care team about what needs they can anticipate and what is available in the area to assist them.
How do cancer support services benefit patients?
In general, cancer support services can help take the uncertainty out of a cancer diagnosis.
“When patients are first diagnosed, there is often a lot of emotion and uncertainty, so I think that support resources help patients find the support they need, and also gain insight into what is happening to them,” Varkas says.
Every person is different, and has different needs when it comes to support. Varkas recommends looking at your coping style and taking a personal self-inventory to help determine what you need and when – as these needs will continue to change as you go through different phases of your cancer journey, from diagnosis to treatment and survivorship.
“Each diagnosis is such a personal experience, and each person will require different levels of support,” he says. “Maybe you aren’t comfortable in an in-person support group but would benefit greatly from online chat groups. Some people may not need a whole lot of resources throughout their journey. Others need much more. It truly depends on you, and your unique situation. The most important thing to know is that help is available — just ask!”
For more information on local and national cancer resources, as well as those available from Henry Ford, visit Colleen’s Corner, a resource for patients of external supportive cancer resources, or use this form to connect with a cancer support specialist.
Ted Varkas is a social worker who works with cancer patients at Henry Ford Cancer – Downriver.