Holistic Support for Cancer Patients and Caregivers

  • Date Submitted: Feb 15, 2024
  • Category: Impact Story

When it comes to cancer, diagnosis is only the beginning. The road ahead is filled with uncertainty for patients and family members, but with the help of St. John’s Health Foundation, the oncology department at St. John’s Health offers a spectrum of support that extends far beyond the clinic doors.

“A cancer diagnosis is a life-altering event that brings not only significant physical and emotional challenges, but also financial. For many patients, the cost of cancer treatment can be overwhelming and potentially stands as a barrier between them and the care they desperately need,” explained Casey Gregory, Director of Oncology. “Access to St. John’s Health Foundation Oncology Patient Support Funding program plays a pivotal role in breaking down those financial barriers that often accompany a cancer diagnosis.”

“These funds allow them to pay for extra medical bills or travel associated with their treatment, making sure they can still afford their rent or mortgage or grocery bills,” Casey explained, noting that many patients are elderly or on a fixed income. Other patients, she added, are taking time off work to receive treatment, which can cause additional financial strain while navigating cancer.

The Foundation partner event Tee It Up for Oncology funded the purchase of six new treatment chairs in 2022. “That has been really impactful in transforming the cancer journey into one of hope and possibility. It has enhanced the treatment experience for our oncology patients; heat and massage settings offer patients a level of comfort and support that goes beyond the standard,” Casey added. She estimated that 500 patients have enjoyed these supportive benefits already.

Navigating cancer extends far beyond the oncology department, explained Katelyn Webb, Survivorship Program Manager. “The Cancer Survivorship Program is an integrated health approach to cancer care during active treatment and into recovery. Our program is accessible to patients, survivors, and caregivers. Patients can access the program from time of diagnosis, through active treatment, through recovery, and caregivers can access into grief — we span the whole cancer journey.” The program offers massage, acupuncture, yoga, pilates, mental health counseling, physical, occupational, speech therapies, and more.

This array of holistic resources relieved stress, improved sense of wellbeing, and improved perceptions of health care in patients and caregivers alike. Partner nonprofit Stripping for a Cure has been the largest donor to this life changing program. Their support ensures this program has the funding it needs to allow oncology patients and caregivers additional avenues of healing.

This year, the Survivorship Program served 98 cancer patients and survivors, 26 caregivers: 180 massages, 404 acupuncture appointments, 130 counseling sessions, 21 Pilates groups, one yoga group, and we also awarded 19 survivorship-based scholarships to help patients access things like lymphedema garments or other services that were essential to the care, but maybe not a part of the program.