One in 8 American women and 1 in 1,000 American men will develop breast cancer at some point in their lives. It’s estimated that more than 2 million people are diagnosed with breast cancer and fight for their lives each year.
Breast cancer is difficult to face alone—for both patients and their loved ones. To help in the battle, there are many resources and support groups.
One new support available starting this month in Rockland and Westchester communities is a unique food delivery service designed specifically for households affected by breast cancer. Magnolia Meals at Home is a pilot project of the Eisai Women’s Oncology Program – MagnoliaTM, CANCERcare, Cancer Support Community and Meals On Wheels Association of America.
The program delivers up to seven frozen meals a month to patients receiving or just after treatment for breast cancer. If they're living with family, up to 10 more meals will be delivered each month.
CANCERcare is a national non-profit that provides free support services to cancer patients and their families. The organization came up with the meal-delivery program while thinking about what breast-cancer patients and their families go through.
"How can we support the family, support the patient, relieve the stress of daily living and encourage more quality time," said Kathy Nugent, LCSW, director of social services, CANCERcare. "When you look at patients going through breast cancer, many have side effects such as loss of appetite, fatigue, nausea. This gives them a little break on those days when they’re not up to cooking or not up to thinking about food. They know there is something in the freezer."
The program is free and there is no income requirement. Learn more by calling 1-800-813-HOPE or at the Magnolia-Meals at Home website.
“Support groups are really beneficial,” says Debra Somerrs Copit, MD, Director of Breast Imaging at Albert Einstein Medical Center, and a member of the medical advisory board for Living Beyond Breast Cancer.
“When patients are told they’re sick, it can be an out of body experience and they aren’t taking in everything the doctor is saying. It can be helpful to have someone to turn to and learn from who has gone through the same thing,” says Copit, who is a breast cancer survivor herself.
Not only do groups offer emotional support, but being a part of a support group can actually help patients feel less depressed and can help to reduce physical pain, according to a 2001 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine.
Patients who aren’t big fans of group settings but still want to reap the benefits can turn to technology. It’s hard to duplicate in-person support groups on the web, but the recently launched breast cancer specific social networking platform, MyBreastCancerTeam comes close.
The site and mobile app caters to breast cancer survivors, and women who have been recently diagnosed. Users can find suggestions for doctors and find similar users based on location, diagnosis and age. Members also have access to peer-driven Q&A section where they can read and write posts.
While a web platform may be useful for some, Dr.Copit worries that online forums can sometimes trigger the spread of misinformation. She suggests that patients who can’t make it to an in-person support group try calling a phone line.
Living Beyond Breast Cancer has a confidential survivors’ helpline that connects patients with others of similar background, going through similar situations. Call (888) 753-LBBC (5222) for more information.
In addition to Magnolia-Meals at Home, CANCERcare offers many other support services, including free counseling (online on the phone or face to face), educational materials and free education programs for professionals, patients and caregivers.
Many of the latter, which are free, are phone conference calls around lunchtime. The educational programs are available on their website for a year in case you can’t listen live.
Call 1-800-813-HOPE or go to CANCERcare's website.
TELL US: There are many breast cancer support groups in the community. Which do you support? Which have supported you?