The highly regarded Brigham and Women’s Hospital is hosting a monthly online mesothelioma support group titled “Living With Mesothelioma.” The next meeting is this Sunday, September 20, 2020, on the video conference platform Zoom.
The event will be from 7-8 p.m. and is available to any and all mesothelioma patients, family members and caregivers, even those who don’t receive treatment from Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Beth Flanzbaum is a licensed clinical social worker for the hospital’s world-renowned International Mesothelioma Program (IMP). She and board-certified chaplain Rev. John Kearns will co-lead Sunday’s meeting.
The topics for Sunday’s support group meeting will range from COVID-19 and other stressors. Flanzbaum said the intent is “to get a sense of how people are coping.”
There is no limit on the number of people attending. Anyone wishing to participate can find all relevant information on the International Mesothelioma Program’s Facebook event page.
More About ‘Living With Mesothelioma’ Support Group
The inspiration for the support group happened organically. The International Mesothelioma Program is one of the top treatment programs in the world for mesothelioma, often helping patients from across the country.
Due to the national recognition and high volume of patients traveling from other regions, the program offers housing (the Thornton House) for families of patients receiving treatment. Flanzbaum and the rest of the staff noticed that the families often formed close bonds with one another, relying on each other for support during an anxious period.
“We wanted to give them a more formal opportunity to get together,” she added. “So many of our patients come from outside the local area.
“It’s such a rare illness that I think people feel very alone with it. So the opportunity to connect and feel less alone is really important.”
The plan is for meetings towards the end of each month. They’ll always be Sunday from 7-8 p.m. eastern time. Future dates are already set, so if you can’t attend the September meeting then you can schedule for future ones:
- October 18, 2020
- November 15, 2020
- December 20, 2020
- January 24, 2021
- March 21, 2021
- April 18, 2021
- May 16, 2021
- June 20, 2021
Topics in future meetings include health and nutrition, recovery after surgery, updates on medical research, living with mesothelioma when surgery isn’t an option, meditation and more.
“We try to bring up topics that people who have spent some time in the groups before would talk about,” Flanzbaum said.
Mesothelioma Support Groups During the Coronavirus
Mesothelioma support groups can offer patients, family members and caregivers with emotional strength. Receiving a cancer diagnosis often leads to adversity for everyone involved, and licensed social workers can help people endure distress.
Before 2020 and the coronavirus pandemic, many support groups were in-person. During the COVID-19 epidemic, online support groups have heightened importance for mesothelioma patients.
The danger of the virus has led to the indefinite postponement of in-person support groups at hospitals and cancer centers. Virtual resources, such as Zoom video conferencing, offer an alternative to continuing counseling for cancer people.
For instance, Brigham and Women’s Hospital hosts a Mesothelioma Orientation Group for newly diagnosed mesothelioma patients. This group includes information from a social worker. The hospital also has a support group for family members of Brigham and Women’s patients. It consists of a discussion of issues and self-care tips for mesothelioma caregivers.
Both groups were offered as an in-person option and an online/virtual event. With the ongoing pandemic, they’re strictly online support groups. The hospital runs many other general support groups for all types of cancer patients and caregivers.
“We have relied a lot on Zoom and on telephones,” Flanzbaum said. “Zoom has made it a lot easier for families to communicate with me. We have visitor restrictions so family members aren’t always able to come to the hospital.
“We’ve been really able to utilize technology in ways that we weren’t before the pandemic.”
Other Online Support Options for Mesothelioma Victims
Despite the lack of in-person support groups, people with mesothelioma have quite a few online options. A few resources are more informal, such as Facebook groups and pages offering information to patients. Others are formal groups that you can sign up for during and after the pandemic.
Some of the less-formal options include:
- Mesothelioma Guide’s Facebook page, which offers news about medical research, treatment trends, support options and more news related to mesothelioma
- The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation’s Facebook group, which is a community of survivors and caregivers sharing news and information about this cancer
- The Cancer Support Community’s MyLifeLine, which allows you to create a webpage to communicate with friends and family about your cancer fight
If you’d like to register for a phone or online support group, you can sign up for CancerCare’s individual and group counseling sessions with trained social workers.
You can also contact our patient advocate, Karen Ritter, for more support group options. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about steps you can take to aid in your fight against mesothelioma.
Sources & Author
- Support Groups for Patients and Families. Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Retrieved from: https://www.brighamandwomens.org/patients-and-families/care-coordination/support-groups. Accessed: 09/15/2020.
Sources & Author