A diagnosis of cancer changes your life
With a diagnosis of cancer, your life changes on a dime. Everything else comes to a screeching halt — work problems, family issues, and relationship concerns.
For women, besides skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer. Over the course of their lifetime, 12 percent of women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. In 2015, it's estimated that 231,840 women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer.
The good news: Since 1989 the death rate from breast cancer has been decreasing. Women under 50 have had the biggest decreases in mortality, largely because of heightened awareness and early detection.
The process of recovery and healing is grueling. From diagnosis, through treatment, and then survivorship, women and their families struggle with a wide range of complex and difficult concerns. How do I tell my children and parents? How will this impact my relationship with my husband? What physical changes will I experience? Will I be able to work or take care of my children? What about costs of treatment? How will I cope? How will I manage all of the responsibilities in my life?
Kathryn Johnson, a clinical psychologist at The Everett Clinic and the Medical Director of Psychosocial Services at Providence Regional Cancer Partnership in Everett, notes, “Cancer does not just affect the patient. It impacts the entire family and social system. Relationships that were good to begin with often become deeper and stronger. However, a diagnosis of cancer can erode and cause irreparable damage to relationships with cracks in the foundation.
“Women often have the role of primary caretaker within a family. A diagnosis of cancer can put them in the position of needing significant care, often for the first time in their adult life. It can be hard for these women to ask for help.”
At the Providence Everett Cancer Partnership, a joint venture between The Everett Clinic, Providence Hospital, Western Washington Medical Group and Northwest Washington Radiation Oncology Associates, the team of cancer specialists, nurses, psychologists, social workers, and counselors strive to provide holistic care, meeting the physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs of each patient and family member.
In addition to providing individual sessions with a counselor, PRCP offers a support group for women struggling with the specific challenges of breast cancer.
They have a bi-weekly evening group for young (under 45) breast cancer patients. Other support groups include a weekly daytime group for women with cancer, a bi-weekly evening group for all patients and family members, a weekly yoga group, and an eight-week Survivorship Series for patients who have completed treatment. Dr. Johnson, also an art therapist, has been conducting an art therapy group at the PRCP since it opened in 2007. All of these programs have one goal: support patients as they move through their course of diagnosis, treatment and recovery.
Dr. Johnson goes on to say: “Patients who attend our support groups can expect to find a sense of normalcy, when they seek help at a time that often feels very foreign to them.” Group members often make comments along the lines of: “I found a community of people who ‘get it' because they have been through it” and “It's a place where I can come and feel normal.”
It's important not to feel alone.
For more information about patient support at the Providence Regional Cancer Partnership, call 425-297-5520.