Support Groups at Chester County Hospital in West Chester, PA

by Chester County Hospital

"You have cancer..." Three life-changing words that can cause a blow to the psyche, resulting in feelings of anxiety, sadness and anger. Unfortunately, nearly one in three Americans will hear these words in their lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society.

Kelly Chambers,  MSSW, LSW -- Chester County Hospital oncology social worker
Kelly Chambers, MSSW, LSW

Kelly Chambers, MSSW, LSW -- an oncology social worker at The Abramson Cancer Center at Chester County Hospital -- helps those who have been diagnosed with cancer (and their loved ones) manage the psychosocial impacts of the disease.

"Cancer not only affects your physical well-being, it impacts the way you feel and can be a disruption to your everyday life," says Chambers.

The importance of emotional health is increasingly being recognized, which is why the Abramson Cancer Center at Chester County Hospital utilizes a brief survey to help measure distress levels during a patient's second visit. The four question assessment rates feelings of anxiety and depression and also gauges the patient's level of support.

Chambers meets with individuals who rate higher for distress but is available to anyone who comes to the center, including family and caregivers who may have their own emotional needs for different reasons.

When asked what she recommends to her patients, she says communication and keeping an open mind are key.

"Talking to your provider is important," says Chambers. "If you experience increasing levels of anxiety, depression, fear, or any other emotion, share it with your medical team. Support is available for both you and your family."

Chambers adds, "I also recommend opening yourself to new experiences to see what will be helpful to you. Some may benefit from one-on-one counseling or by connecting with people who are going through a similar journey, while others may find yoga and meditation to be helpful."

Because managing psycho-social health is not a one-size-fits-all approach, Chester County Hospital offers a variety of services to help patients manage the often overwhelming emotional effects of cancer.

"Our program offers several support groups, including 'Coping with Cancer', which creates a safe space for people in active treatment to connect with others; a survivorship program to help cancer survivors transition from treatment to post-treatment care; and a 'Caring for the Caregiver’ group for people caring for a loved one," says Chambers.

Art Therapy at Chester County Hospital in West Chester, PAFor those with a creative spirit, the hospital also offers an Art Therapy group through the Chester County Art Association. The ongoing group uses art as a way to express the challenges presented by their diagnosis and is open to all, no matter their artistic ability.

SHINE, a volunteer organization through the Chester County Hospital Foundation, provides access to additional services including acupuncture and massage to promote relaxation and pain management, personalized wig consultations so patients can feel like themselves again, and transportation services if needed.

Since exercise provides countless health benefits, including a welcome endorphin boost to help manage mood, SHINE provides a 60-day fitness membership for those who may not have access to a gym, along with private sessions with an oncology certified personal trainer at participating fitness centers.

"All of our patients are given a welcome packet from SHINE, which includes resources available to them plus my contact information so they can reach out at any time. Our goal is to support patients from the moment they are diagnosed, through treatment and into survivorship," Chambers adds.



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