Robert R. Cawley, D.O.
Dover, NH 03802
Life beyond cancer – “survivorship” – is a field that is gaining more attention as medical advances in cancer treatment translate into higher survival rates and longer lives. Thanks to generous support from donors to the Wentworth-Douglass Foundation’s annual Seacoast Cancer 5K, a variety of services offered to cancer survivors is now consolidated and expanded into the Seacoast Cancer Center’s Survivorship and Wellness Program, a formally accredited program by the Commission on Cancer – American College of Surgeons.
“Philanthropic dollars have made it possible for us to be more efficient and effective in what we do well, while creating new and innovative programs that enhance well-being and resilience,” says Michael Meserve, newly appointed director of the Survivorship and Wellness Program.
“This has always been my dream job, because we have a real impact on the lives of patients, their families, and their caregivers.” Seacoast Cancer 5K participants and donors have provided $350,000 to the Seacoast Cancer Center to fund the expansion of the Survivorship and Wellness Program – truly making a difference for the thousands of patients who receive treatment at the Seacoast Cancer Center each year.
Many people don’t realize that individuals are considered “survivors” from the time of a cancer diagnosis through the rest of their lives. Over the next decade, the number of people who have lived five or more years after their diagnosis is projected to increase by 33% to 15.1 million people. Making sure these patients, their caregivers, and their loved ones get the ongoing support needed to continue to navigate their healthcare journey is at the core of the Survivorship and Wellness Program.
“We help people set realistic goals and stay on track,” says Meserve: “I worked at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital for 18 years as a radiation therapist, so I’ve seen cancer treatment from the clinical care perspective. We would see patients every day, typically for 6 – 9 weeks, and then, one day, that treatment is over. We celebrate together by ringing the bell to mark the end of treatment, but then the patient wakes up the next day and thinks, ‘Okay, what now?’ All of a sudden, not only is that regimented, predictable treatment schedule gone, but so are the connections to staff and other cancer patients.”
Judith Geaghan, Community Outreach Coordinator for the Seacoast Cancer Center agrees: “Survivorship is a journey. We do an amazing job here at the Seacoast Cancer Center in delivering the highest quality clinical care available.”
Clinical social workers, including Geaghan, often sit in on the initial diagnosis meeting: “Patients are often overwhelmed and frightened with many concerns that go beyond the immediate medical issues. For example, many ask ‘How do I talk to my children about this?’ We offer guidance, assistance and ongoing support. And we serve as a conduit to community resources, whether it’s help with a transportation issue or a connection to appropriate retailers specializing in wigs, clothing, or healthy food.”
Says Meserve, “Survivorship is the patient’s new normal, and they need concrete next steps.” Often this entails education that is customized for cancer survivors. One such course offered, LIFE (Lifestyle Interventions for Everyone) is an eight-week wellness course built on “the pillars of wellness” (meaningful change, nutrition, environment, physical activity, and meditation) to help reduce cancer risk and recurrence. Course content includes tips on reducing exposure to toxins by implementing safe and easy steps for “greening” home and work environments.
Another example of the survivorship programs offered by the Seacoast Cancer Center is The Best New Me Program that promotes women’s self-care and well-being during and after cancer treatment, including skin care and hair care.
According to Geaghan, “The ripple effect throughout the larger community is felt through the outreach of our social workers, nutritionists, rehab specialists – who have been working diligently to make this program a reality. We are increasing the visibility of survivorship resources and impact, whether it’s outreach at health fairs in area schools, or at our new Seacoast Cancer Center location in Portsmouth. All share the common goal of improving quality of life while moving forward.”
To learn more about the impact of the Seacoast Cancer 5K, contact Emily Moore at Emily.Moore@wdhospital.org
or visit SeacoastCancer5K.org.
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