Peer Support Helps Patients Navigate Their Cancer Journey

CURE, CURE® Summer 2021 Issue,

Advocacy Groups | <b>Lungevity</b>

Katie Brown, senior vice president of survivorship and support for LUNGevity Foundation, wrote about a program for patients to gain knowledge from survivors.

A cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming, leaving individuals with a flurry of emotions, concerns or even shock in the attempt to process the new direction their lives have taken. Support from family and friends becomes a crucial part of navigating the disease, though an equally important but overlooked need for many is the support and understanding from someone who has already walked the cancer path.

Finding someone who understands this experience firsthand, however, is not always easy. That’s why LUNGevity Foundation created the LifeLine Support Program.

The LifeLine Support Program is a free service that matches patients with lung cancer or caregivers with LifeLine Support Partners. The Support Partners volunteer to mentor and offer encouragement, advice, experience and hope to those newly diagnosed and anyone needing additional support through a one-on-one personal connection by email or telephone. Partners are matched based on factors such as type of lung cancer, age group or other similarities.

According to the National Cancer Institute, one in three people with cancer experiences mental or emotional distress, with a staggering 25% of cancer survivors experiencing symptoms of depression and 45% experiencing anxiety. LifeLine Partners can be a vital part of a newly diagnosed patient’s support system and can help navigate through the logistics and emotions of a lung cancer diagnosis.

“It’s like having a wingman who not only helps you in the beginning, but also helps you adjust to living with the disease,” says Michelle, a LifeLine Support Partner mentee. “You need that added support before the next round of labs or the next scan. You need to expect the unexpected and have the safety net. A LifeLine partner gives you that.”

It is LUNGevity’s goal to help mitigate the tremendous emotional pressure one faces upon and through their diagnosis. No one can understand the concerns of a patient with cancer on quite the same level as someone who has already had those same thoughts, feelings and experiences. LifeLine partners can offer help with the practical aspects of self-advocacy, communicating with your medical provider, how to share your diagnosis with your loved ones and what symptoms to expect. This peer-to-peer support can also address the emotional aspects of a lung cancer diagnosis; for example, how to use mindfulness practices to battle fearful or negative thoughts.

LUNGevity offers the largest online network of support and survivorship programs for all people affected by lung cancer. Our annual International Lung Cancer Survivorship Conference is composed of three summits that provide an opportunity for local communities to come together to find the latest information on treatments and living with lung cancer, as well as to be surrounded by other people impacted by this disease: the HOPE Summit for patients, the COPE Summit for caregivers and the Survivorship Summit for advocates and survivors who are interested in more advanced topics.

Patients and caregivers can receive additional peer-to-peer support and information from LUNGevity’s social media platforms as well as the online Lung Cancer Support Community, an extensive message board that includes the latest lung cancer information and notices of lung cancer events and advocacy opportunities. The Lung Cancer HELPLine also offers toll-free, personalized support for patients and caregivers at any time during their lung cancer experience. LUNGevity’s oncology social workers are available to individuals to manage their emotional, financial and support challenges.

Also provided are referrals to financial assistance resources for needs including pain medication, home care, child care, medical supplies, transportation for treatment and copayment assistance.

More than 235,000 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year, with a new diagnosis every 2.2 minutes, according to the National Cancer Institute. The road after a lung cancer diagnosis is often troubling, uncertain and difficult to navigate, and it is not uncommon to feel lost on the journey. But the road isn’t one that needs to be traveled alone. Support is always just a step — or a phone call — away.

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