Healthy Living: Easing the Burden

 

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As for the next priority for cancer centers, according to state experts it’s survivorship programs—support groups for patients with particular cancers, for spouses, for parents and for children. “For the first time, the balance has shifted,” says Lopman of the trend over the past decade. “We have more people who have survived cancer than are in treatment. What does survivorship mean? There may not be one answer.” Says Beckwith, “When the treatment was over, part of me was really excited. But the rest of me thought, ‘You mean I can’t come here anymore?’ I know I’m safe when I come here. You’re kind of paranoid after that.”  

But all these expanded facilities and services come at a high cost—many cancer centers carry the names of philanthropists, such as Bennett, Whittingham, Smilow, Leever, Gray and Neag. Have the donors driven the growth? “The real answer,” says Zelkowitz, “is that without the monies people have donated, we would be in big trouble. They’ve allowed us to expand and give patients the services they need.”

What doesn’t cost money, but adds tremendous value, say cancer patients, are the volunteers, many of them cancer patients or survivors themselves. They find roles working in boutiques, helping with fundraisers and serving as mentors to new patients. Beckwith hopes to volunteer at the Gray Cancer Center partially to thank her caregivers. “They treat you like you’re their only patient,” she says. “It makes you want to become a part of it, but you wonder if you are kind enough.”

Redmer, a marketing executive, says the volunteers at Norwalk’s Whittingham Cancer Center were inspirational and made a big difference in her care, which she estimates involved 50 visits to the cancer center from January to August. “There is no doubt I will be connected in some way,” says Redmer, who is considering enrolling in Yale Divinity School. “Spirituality and healing will be my future. I want to say, when I am 80 years old, that breast cancer was the greatest gift I ever got because it helped me relive my life in the best possible way.”
 

Healthy Living: Easing the Burden

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