Cancer survivors throughout Denver metro area can enroll in a program that has gained national attention for helping survivors navigate life after cancer treatment.
The program, called Empower Your Recovery; provides support and education in a small group setting. It has been offered several times over the past two years at Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers Longmont, Aurora, and Lakewood clinics and it is now being adopted by cancer centers across the country.
Empower Your Recovery encourages “healing and growth for living beyond cancer” and is offered to patients who have finished treatment and are navigating the unfamiliar waters of life as a cancer survivor.
“It’s a five-week session for putting your life in perspective,” says Robert Fisher, MD, a Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers oncologist. It is intended as an opportunity to learn about the disease and, Fisher says, “take charge of your recovery.”
Fisher and Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers oncology social workers Marianne Stenhouse LCSW, OSW-C, and Anh Lai-O’Connell, LCSW, created the program because they recognized people often experience surprising and mixed emotions as they move beyond treatment. Through their work, they knew that being with others who understand what they are going through and learning new coping skills helps during this transition.
Stenhouse and Lai-O’Connell presented highlights of the program this summer at the national gathering of the Association of Oncology Social Workers to make the program available for other qualified facilitators to use at clinics around the world. Several hundred oncology social workers attended the conference and many expressed interest in offering the program to cancer survivors in their states.
The program’s roots lie in the Pink Ribbon Survivors Network, a clearinghouse of cancer, health, nutrition, and survivorship information. Fisher launched the network for breast cancer survivors several years ago. To build Empower Your Recovery, the trio used resources from that website, expanded its focus to include all cancers, and paired information with the experience and insights Stenhouse and Lai-O’Connell have gained over years working with Rocky Mountain Cancer Center’s patients.
“Many survivors are in distress – not so much that they can’t function but they want to talk about physical adjustments they have to make, relationships, things going on with work,” Stenhouse says.
The program curriculum uses vetted articles, discussion, and structured activities including art therapy and journaling, to address one of five topics each week:
- Physical Recovery and New Limitations
- The Importance of Self-Care
- Fostering Positive Relationships
- Doubt and Hope in Survivorship
- Moving Forward, Prioritizing, and Leaving a Legacy
The program takes the spotlight at a time when the needs and challenges of cancer survivors is receiving unprecedented attention—and as the number of survivors grows. As of 2016, there are estimated 15.5 million cancer survivors in the United States, and increasingly, care providers are offering support and assistance to meet their needs. Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers also offers, through a grant, a separate, somewhat different program that is studying the benefits of support systems for cancer survivors.
With the Empower Your Recovery program, getting those survivors together, a few at a time, offers a chance for them to talk about, plan for, and better understand life after cancer. “They are talking about positive things, about how to move ahead and what’s important now – because often priorities change after cancer treatment,” Stenhouse said.
“We’re excited about it. I think it’s going to help a lot of people,” Stenhouse says.
For more information on sessions visit Empower your Recovery Spring 2017 Flyer Aurora and Longmont.