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September 7, 2011

Side-by-Side Program Walks with Patients through Emotions of Cancer

Cancer affects more than just the body.  A diagnosis of cancer causes a wave of emotional distress from the patient, the patient, their family and friends. 

Will I survive?  Why has this happened to me?  How will this affect my spouse?  How will my children deal with this?  Will I be able to work?  These are some of the many questions that immediately come into a cancer patient’s mind when first hearing the diagnosis.

The Side-by Side Wellness Center of the Simmons Cancer Institute (SCI) at Southern Illinois University helps patients manage the physical and psychological effects of living with cancer through a variety of free classes, workshops and support groups.  SCI also provides individual counseling services for patients, their families and caregivers.

“Physical treatment for cancer patients is not enough,” said Dr. Chad Noggle, chief of psycho-oncology for SCI and director of Side-by-Side.  “Stress triggers physical reactions in the patient as well as in the patient’s family and support system.  Providing techniques to cope with the stress caused by a cancer diagnosis helps the patient, their family and caregivers.”

Side-By-Side classes include “Cancer Diagnosis. What’s Next?” a class that provides newly diagnosed patients with information about cancer, chemotherapy, radiation, nutrition and exercise. 

Healthy eating is the focus of “Nutrition, Cancer and You,” a bi-monthly class that covers topics from getting the right nutrition during treatment to healthy eating to prevent cancer.  SCI has recently partnered with Lincoln Land Community College to provide a series of non-credit classes focusing on healthy eating.  The “Eating for Health!” classes are free to cancer patients who register at SCI and open to the general public for a small fee.  The series begins in September and will be offered at the Springfield campus.

Ongoing exercise classes that are specifically designed for cancer patients include yoga, tai chi, and qi gong.

The “Coping with Cancer: A Mind-Body Approach” class teaches a variety of techniques to combat depression, anxiety, anger, confusion and stress of a cancer diagnosis by understanding the mind-body connection.  Courses are also offered in stress reduction, relaxation training and guided imagery, which help patients reduce the stress of an unknown procedure.  Other classes focus on the lowering stress through art, journaling, and music. 

Other classes help patients feel confident about their appearance.  “Tying, Tea, Talk and Touch” is a head scarf tying class with a side of green tea, conversation and an opportunity to experience Reiki massage.  SCI has partnered with the American Cancer Society to offer a “Look Good, Feel Better” class, offering makeup and beauty techniques to fight the appearance of side effects from radiation and chemotherapy. 

“Cancer Transitions: Moving Beyond Treatment” helps cancer survivors move from active treatment to post-treatment care.  This six-week workshop includes sessions about exercise, nutrition, medical management and emotional well-being.

Ongoing support groups are provided for caregivers, lung cancer survivors and patients, and women with any kind of cancer.

All Side-by-Side programs are free to patients, survivors, and also their families, friends and caregivers, who experience their own emotions of helplessness and even concern about their own health as they support a loved one with cancer.

“Encouraging family members and caregivers to take care of themselves during their loved one’s treatment can be difficult,” Noggle said.  “An important part of the treatment at SCI is to extend care to family members and caregivers who also face a roller coaster of emotions,” Noggle said.

Providing that support and offering ways of dealing with the stress of cancer for the patient and family members is part of the overall cancer treatment approach at SCI, said Ellen Brotzman-DeSart, education coordinator for the Side-by-Side program, who is a cancer survivor.  For more information on any of these programs, call Ellen at 217-545-0798 weekdays.

The mission of the Simmons Cancer Institute at SIU is to serve the people of central and southern Illinois by addressing their present and future cancer care needs through education, research, patient care and community service.  Its website is www.siumed.edu/cancer.

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