Following the diagnosis of mesothelioma, patients often feel overwhelmed. They have many questions and concerns—for themselves and for their families. Patients worry how their loved ones will cope. The International Mesothelioma Program (IMP) at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) has a dedicated support team to provide comfort, compassion, and companionship during this difficult time for the patient as well as for the caregiver, most often the spouse. The IMP support staff includes a patient liaison coordinator, a chaplain, a dedicated social worker and two trained nurses who provide post-surgery care. Social worker Beth Flanzbaum, MSW, LICSW and chaplain John Kearns work alongside patient navigator Sheryl Ann Chicoine, Thornton House Coordinator Martha Williams, and nursing liaisons Lisa Hyde-Barrett, RN and Ellie Ericson, RN. One of the physician assistants is also assigned as the mesothelioma PA every week. Together, they create a support network for mesothelioma patients and their families before, during, and after their stay at the hospital.
At the time of the patient’s first appointment, the IMP hosts a new patient orientation that offers patients and their families, many of whom are from out of town, a comprehensive overview of the program and an opportunity to better understand the journey ahead of them. Patients and family members also meet others who may share the same diagnosis which can provide additional support, so that patients and their families don’t feel alone in battling this disease. We learned that the new patient orientation offers people hope and enables them to better understand their diagnosis and treatment options. They meet our support team and we allot ample time to address their questions and concerns.
To assist patients who have surgery, Beth spends time with them before, during, and after the operation. The day of surgery is a big day and naturally patients and their families are scared, so Beth explains what may likely happen during that day. She sits down with patients and their families to walk them through the stages of the surgery and the post-op recovery so that they are prepared for what may lie ahead. Her job is to help the patient and family members manage the anxiety that inevitably accompanies anyone facing surgery. In most cases, Beth is able to address many of their concerns and fears which helps to calm the patients and their families and fosters a more positive mindset going into the surgery and may ultimately have a positive effect on their recovery.
Beth and John Kearns, who have worked with mesothelioma patients and their families for many years, run a weekly lunchtime support group on the Thoracic Surgery floor of the BWH patient tower. These groups are yet another opportunity to connect family members with others experiencing similar circumstances.
Beth also runs a weekly breakfast support group for patients and family members who are rooming at the Thornton House. This provides another opportunity for patients and families to meet and discuss their experiences with mesothelioma surgery and recovery.
What makes the IMP’s support services unique is that its outreach extends to the families of the patients. We understand the crucial role of the caregivers and our support team helps to take care of them so that they have the emotional and physical strength to care for their loved ones. Furthermore, our patients are enormously relieved when they learn that their family will be cared for as well. It is often one less worry for them.
Our support team helps to advocate for our mesothelioma patients and families, who are trying to keep up with an intensely complicated medical situation.
Everyone who walks through our doors is likely to experience similar anxieties, fears, insecurities, and varying degrees of unfamiliarity with the treatment process. Being surrounded by people coping with a similar situation and experiencing similar emotions establishes a strong bond among the families who are part of the IMP family. Our support staff builds a community of comfort for our patients and their families that can help ease their emotional stress.
Disclaimer: The content of this blog post is for general educational purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This blog post should not be interpreted as an endorsement by Dr. Bueno of the blog’s sponsor.