Cast a Wide Net; Explore Your Resources
Matthew 7:7 ” Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”
Undergoing treatment for a serious illness is emotionally draining, expensive, uncertain, and it will almost surely turn your life upside down. Chances are that you will face obstacles and need assistance. Whether that help comes in the form of finding medical information, financial assistance, or emotional support, it’s important to know where you can receive trusted information and guidance.
Your Medical Team
Your health care team is your number one resource during your illness. You should feel comfortable with your doctors and nurses, ask questions, and receive satisfying answers. Most cancer treatment facilities have social workers or case managers who will be able to assist you with your care. Social workers are a wonderful resource since they have knowledge of social programs you may be eligible for on the local, state or national levels.
(To learn more about your healthcare team, read “The Oncology Team” at Cancer.net.)
Here are some questions that you may want to ask your health care team:
- Where can I gather more information about my disease?
- Is there someone I can talk to who has had a similar experience?
- Is there anyone who can offer me emotional support?
- Who can I turn to for help with my insurance questions?
- Are there any programs that offer financial assistance?
- Do you know of anyone who can help with transportation to my treatments or help me run errands?
After receiving information from a trusted member of your health care team, consider exploring national organizations that offer a variety of services such as medical or treatment information for your type of disease. Major groups, in general, stay well informed about the latest medical breakthroughs for the disease. These advocacy groups may also offer telephone counseling with social workers, patient-to-patient support or financial assistance.
The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is an excellent example of a national organization that runs educational programs, offers financial assistance and has a peer counseling program.
The American Cancer Society also offers resources. Many of these large, national organizations have state, regional or local offices which may be able to provide services such as counseling, support groups, transportation or financial assistance more directly. You should check if there is a local office in your area.
To view these organizations and others like them, click on this National Cancer Institute fact sheet “National Organizations That Offer Cancer Related Services”.
The National Library of Medicine offers a searchable database with Health Hotlines for specific conditions.
An excellent online tool for finding resources is the “Toolbox” offered by the online magazine CureToday.
The non-profit organization CancerCare includes useful resource lists, guides, educational teleconferences and support services as well as a toll-free hotline at 1-800-813-4673.
Some of the best support can be found in your own backyard. Many local community organizations and local hospitals have groups that offer services for people with your illness.
Check to see if your community has a non-profit organization or chapter of a national organization where educational support groups are held. Support groups can be a wonderful resource and a safe place for meeting people, sharing experiences with others who have traveled your path, and communicating your feelings.
Local libraries may also offer support groups for those being treated for an illness or for their caregivers. Call your local health department or explore its website to see what state or county programs are available to you.
Many local governments at the county level offer patients discounted rides to and from treatment plus have financial programs or social services for which you may be eligible. Check your county or state’s websites to seek social service or financial assistance. Be sure to find out:
- How do I apply for this service or benefit?
- Are there eligibility requirements? What are they?
- Is there an application process? How long will it take?
- What information will I need to complete the application process? Will I need anything else to get the service?
- Do you have any other suggestions or ideas about where I can find help?
Your Family, Friends and Colleagues
Many people find comfort and help from their local churches, synagogues or faith-based communities which have volunteers who can help with transportation to and from medical treatments or help run errands for those in need.
Here are two resources that can help your family organize offers of help from your friends and neighbors:
Lotsa Helping Hands is a private, web-based volunteer coordination service that allows family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues to organize and create community – whether it is arranging for child care, meals delivery or organizing during a crisis.
Care Calendar is a web based system to organize meals and other help for families during a time of illness or life changing event, such as the birth of a baby or death of a family member. CareCalendar can also be used for long term situations, including homebound and caregiver respite care needs.
Remember that you are not alone in your fight! Help is always an arm’s length away. Do not be afraid to ask for help. People want to support you and will be very generous if you just speak up and ask. Your Navigator is the best place to start. We are always just a phone call away.