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How a ‘Whole-Person’ Approach to Wellness Can Help You through a Cancer Diagnosis

Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center experts share resources and tips for taking care of your mental, emotional and physical well-being to help support healing.

A cancer diagnosis can take a toll on every aspect of a person’s life, including their mental health and physical well-being, as well as family and friend relationships. This is why comprehensive wellness is so important to the cancer journey.

Supportive resources and professional guidance can make a significant difference. Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center certified oncology social workers, including Abigale Hassel, see this first-hand. They guide patients with counseling and connect them to services that help them address unique needs and concerns.

“It’s a whole-person approach,” Hassel says. “We don’t just treat the disease, we treat the person. And we provide our patients with anything they may need along the way.”

Cancer & Mental Health

Research shows that those with cancer face a significant risk for developing mental illness; it’s also common for them to experience feelings of anger, grief and distress. Dealing with these emotional changes can cause some patients to delay essential treatment, or not get the rest they need, and chronic stress alone can impact the body. This is why taking care of your mental health throughout your cancer journey is crucial to healing.

“Your emotional and physical health are intertwined,” explains Hassel. “Any feelings or symptoms impacting your mental health will also impact your physical health, decision-making and ability to take care of yourself.”

Hassel helps patients find the right coping skills to manage stress and anxiety, such as mindfulness, self-care, staying active and focusing on passions or hobbies. “Reducing your stress levels and focusing on the present can improve your treatment outcomes and help you cope with symptoms like pain and fatigue,” says Hassel.

Healing with Others

Strengthening connections with friends, family and the cancer community can be a key component of managing your diagnosis. “It’s easy to feel isolated and alone in your journey. Support groups can give patients and their families meaningful connections to others who have a deeper understanding of their situation,” says Hassel.

Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center offers in-person and virtual support groups for various types of cancer, including prostate cancer, melanoma, metastatic breast cancer and more. “Virtual programs are a great option for patients who cannot meet in person, whether they’re too fatigued, too at-risk or simply homebound.” says Hassel.

Helping Patients Achieve Whole-Person Wellness

In addition to support groups and community-based classes, the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center – Washington Township also provides an extra layer of holistic services directly for its patients. Supportive oncology services – or “SOS” – are designed to help improve the quality of life for patients and address psychological, social and spiritual symptoms brought forth by cancer and its treatment. The multidisciplinary care team provides:

  • Care planning and goal defining
  • Pain and symptom management
  • Social work services
  • Nutrition education
  • Spiritual counseling
  • Integrative therapies
  • Advance care planning

Experiencing integrative therapy and counseling from the start of your cancer journey can enhance your understanding of your illness, and potentially improve your outcomes. “We want to help patients achieve whole-person wellness, meet all their unique needs and develop goals for their future,” says clinical nurse manager Margaret Mackiewicz.

Mackiewicz encourages all cancer patients to reach out to their providers for support. “Programs like this are not for end-of-life care. They help anyone – with any stage of cancer – truly understand how cancer impacts the body and how to maintain control over your health.”

[Main photo credit: iStock.com/FatCamera]

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