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Healthy Balance

Facing Cancer? 4 Support Services You Need for Holistic Care

uva cancer support services flourish boutique

A cancer diagnosis has a ripple effect. It impacts your body, mind, and spirit. It also affects those who care about you. 

This is why the best cancer care is comprehensive. It includes support services to address every aspect of living with this serious and potentially fatal disease. From dealing with treatments and side effects to learning how to prevent recurrence and cope with emotional highs and lows, patients benefit from support at every stage.

“At UVA Cancer Center, we have support services here to care for the whole person,” says health educator Sarah Sommer. “Cancer is such a long journey, so we build relationships with patients. We see them through not only their treatment, but also just everyday life with the support of dietitians, physical therapists, social workers, counselors — any way we can, we offer support.”

Support Services Tailored to Meet the Needs of Cancer Patients

This support includes tools and resources that aim to keep patients and caregivers informed, to make them comfortable and feel supported — even from a distance.

“One of the great things we’ve seen over the past 2 years during the pandemic is our ability to pivot to support patients not only in person, but also online,” says Sommer. “We have been able to adhere to COVID parameters to keep our patients safe. But we’ve also been able to expand our reach to engage even more patients than in the past who may not have been able to get involved because of distance.”

Cancer Support at Every Stage

Some of the UVA programs and support services tailored to meet the needs of cancer patients include:

Sacred Journeys for Women With Cancer

One of the longest-running support groups within the cancer center, Sacred Journeys is, according to group leader and chaplain Julie Perry, a more spiritual gathering than religious. 

“It is a group for any woman with cancer no matter where they are in their treatment,” she says. “Members come from different faith groups and we encourage them to bring different perspectives and ideas. We come together to talk about spirituality and things that nurture your spirit, and we do activities like meditation, photography, reiki, and Nia.”

Why Is This Group Important?

According to Perry, this group helps meet the social and emotional needs of women with cancer. “Their needs go beyond medical care,” she says. “They need the support and affirmation of one another. These women connect in a strong way and consider each other a significant part of their support system.”

When & Where Does Sacred Journeys Meet?

This meeting is now virtual. The group meets at noon on the third Thursday of the month via WebEx. “We hope to eventually get back to meeting in person. But since we’ve moved online, we’ve had an opportunity to widen our net. We now have members from out-of-state,” says Perry.

Who Can Join Sacred Journeys?

Sacred Journeys is open to all women with cancer, including UVA Cancer Center patients and those receiving treatment elsewhere. 

How Do I Join?

Register one week prior to each session. Email chaplain Julie Perry for more information and for the link to sign up. 

Book Discussion & Study Groups

Originally launched as an extension of Sacred Journeys, book groups are open to all patients and caregivers. The books change each session, yet all cover topics relevant to those living with cancer. The most recent book was Anticancer Living by Lorenzo Cohen, PhD, which provides tips on lifestyle changes that can benefit patients as they manage their disease. Other books have covered topics like dealing with mortality and coping strategies for caregivers. 

“In between meetings, members have a reading assignment. As the group facilitator, I come prepared to the meetings with questions to start the discussion about what we’ve read,” says Perry. “But I encourage the group to ask their questions, and the discussions are very lively.”

Perry says the Anticancer Living book study has been one of the more unique and successful groups. “This group is a little different because it includes tips directed specifically toward patients who have cancer,” she says. “We have invited some of our support services team members to come participate in these discussions. Dietitians discussed food as medicine, social workers talked about building resilience and managing stress — it’s been a great way to make group members aware of the different services we offer here. I anticipate we may offer this book again in the future.”

When & Where Do Book Groups Meet?

Book groups meet online for a total of 6 sessions spaced 2 weeks apart. The most recent group ended in December; a new one will be announced in the coming weeks.

Who Can Join a Book Group?

UVA and non-UVA patients and caregivers can take part in book groups.

How Do I Join?

Email Sarah Sommer to get more information on the latest book group. 

Nia Moving to Heal Classes

Nia is a holistic approach to fitness and wellness that combines martial arts, dance arts, and healing arts. Led by health educator and licensed black belt Nia instructor Susan Tate, Moving to Heal classes offer cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers more than just group exercise. These classes provide a space where attendees can honor their bodies, focus the mind, connect with their emotions, and lift their spirits.

“Nia is movement, not exercise. It meets you wherever you are, and, unlike a traditional dance class, you’re encouraged to do it your own way. You can’t do it wrong,” says Tate. 

“This is an interlude, an hour, where people can be peaceful, joyful, and thank their bodies,” adds Tate. “Cancer patients tell me that it supports their healing in an emotional way even more than the physical.”

Who Can Take Part?

A grant from the Charlottesville Women's Four Miler funds the classes, which are free to all cancer patients, survivors, caregivers, and UVA Cancer Center staff. No experience is needed — join at any time.

When & Where Are Classes Held?

Moving to Heal classes are now offered online via Zoom on Wednesdays and Fridays at noon.

How Do I Join?

Registration is required to gain Zoom access. Learn more about the classes and how to take part.

Flourish Boutique and Ramona’s Room

The Flourish Boutique is a gift shop — and more. There are two boutique locations stocked with a variety of gifts, as well as products and accessories specifically for cancer patients, including specially fitted wigs and head coverings. At UVA Breast Care Center on Pantops, certified mastectomy fitter and boutique coordinator Christy Nichols also offers custom fittings for breast forms, bras, and post-surgery camisoles. 

Newly Diagnosed or Living with Cancer?

Find UVA support services for you and your caregiver.

“Patients can come to Flourish to purchase headware, skin products, neck pillows, and throws. But it’s also a safe place for them to come in and feel supported. They often stop in just to have a conversation,” says Nichols. 

For patients who are underinsured or uninsured, the boutiques also have a special space called Ramona’s Room. Here, patients can be fitted with new or gently used wigs and head coverings for free if their insurance does not cover them. 

A portion of the proceeds from Flourish goes to the UVA Cancer Center and helps maintain these support services for cancer patients. 

Who Can Shop at Flourish?

The Flourish Boutique is open to all visitors who wish to shop. However, fittings for wigs and prostheses are limited to UVA patients. Ramona’s Room serves all cancer patients in the community.

When & Where Can I Shop?

Flourish Boutique is on the first floor of Emily Couric Clinical Cancer Center in Room 1045. Hours are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

The boutique at UVA Breast Care Center is open Tuesday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.


Tags: cancer

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