Hospital to offer support classes for cancer survivors


By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Cancer patients walk a hard road that often stretches far past their last treatment. Recognizing that, Sentara Albemarle Medical Center is launching its own cancer survivorship classes.

The first “Living Beyond Cancer” class will be held in the education center of the hospital, at 1144 N. Road Street today at 5 p.m. The classes will be held quarterly and are free to cancer survivors and their families, said Lesley Scott, a Sentara Albemarle patient navigator and registered nurse who’s helped organize the classes.

Scott and hospital Oncology Service Line Leader Annya Soucy discussed the classes in an interview Monday. Similar classes are offered at other Sentara hospitals, and Sentara Albemarle is starting up the classes as one of several initiatives meant to better serve cancer patients, they explained.

Scott and Soucy said cancer survivors still need support because the disease causes damage, physical and otherwise, that is slow to heal. Survivors also need support because they often need to make lasting lifestyle changes to protect their health, they said.

Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, for example, force people to be less active, and it takes help and support to regain the energy for daily activities, Scott explained. Cancer survivors also need help with safe, effective exercises and ways to conserve energy, she added.

Additionally, cancer survivors often should make dietary changes; they should eat healthier, at minimum, and, in some cases, avoid foods that might interact badly with their former cancer. For example, she said eating soy may interact poorly with some kinds of breast cancer.

The survivorship classes cover diets and physical and occupational therapy, Scott said. Beyond that, they also offer social and emotional support as people face the aftermath of their cancer.

Depression often occurs among cancer survivors. They may lose the friendships and support they got while getting treated, Scott explained. Sometimes survivors even miss the friendships they formed with doctors and health staff, not just family, friends and community members, she said.

Additionally, cancer survivors may also face major financial stress, as they start facing the cost of their treatment, Scott said.

Soucy noted Sentara Albemarle continues working to improve its facilities and resources for cancer patients. It opened a new breast center earlier this year, and is working to open a patient resource center whose offerings include wigs through a “Unique Boutique.”

Scott said she expects about 40 people, including survivors and their friends and family, to attend today’s class. Those who want more information should call 1-800-SENTARA (736-8272).

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