Kelly Jablonski, MSW, LCSW, is an Oncology Clinical Therapist at Inova Life with Cancer. She provides supportive counseling, education and resources to individuals diagnosed with breast cancer at the Adult Infusion Clinic at Inova Schar Cancer Institute.
Going through cancer treatment can be overwhelming and emotional, whether you’re a patient or family member. Having a support system can help both patients and loved ones deal with fear and uncertainty. Inova Life with Cancer’s purpose is to enhance the quality of life of those affected by cancer with evidence-based education, support, wellness programs and integrative therapies.
Inova Life with Cancer Services Help Patients and Families Dealing with Cancer
Life with Cancer is a nonprofit organization that provides emotional support for anyone coping with a cancer diagnosis and their family. Life with Cancer is based out of Inova’s Family Center in Fairfax, Virginia, and has satellite locations at each of Inova Schar Cancer Institutes locations but anyone living with cancer in Maryland, Washington, or Virginia — whether patients at Inova or not — can take advantage of these services. Most of Life with Cancer’s services are free and can be accessed in-person or virtually.
Therapy Services Offered Through Life with Cancer
The program offers many different therapy options, such as:
- One-on-one therapy sessions to help people with cancer or family members process their feelings and emotions. Life with Cancer also offers a unique program where people can talk to a therapist while receiving a chemotherapy infusion, radiation therapy or while on-site for a doctor’s visit at Inova to help process their emotions during treatment. Many people appreciate the chance to schedule fewer appointments while also improving their quality of life.
- Support groups where patients or family members can share their experiences and get encouragement from people in similar situations. Life with Cancer offers a wide variety of support groups to help meet the needs of patients receiving treatments for many different types of cancer.
- Art therapy that allows patients and family members to express their feelings through the creative process.
- Individual, couples or family counseling sessions to help patients and their families process a cancer diagnosis together.
Cancer Education Programs
Specialized classes assist people in their day-to-day decision-making when dealing with cancer treatment. Classes offered through Life with Cancer include:
- Pre-surgery sessions with nurses to understand the surgery and recovery process
- Nutrition classes to help patients learn how food impacts the healing and treatment process
- Fitness programs that are evidence-based and cover all elements of the mind-body connection. Instructors show patients how they can maintain an active lifestyle with a chemotherapy port or while they undergo treatment and recovery.
- Stress management classes that help people manage emotions and ease anxiety
Stress and Pain Management Services
Undergoing cancer treatment can be stressful and overwhelming. Services through Life with Cancer can alleviate some of the stress and pain. Services offered include:
- Massage: Patients are eligible for three free massages per year by an oncology-certified masseuse. These massage therapists have special training in caring for people with chemotherapy ports, scar tissue or surgical incisions, so patients can truly relax.
- Acupuncture: Oncology-certified acupuncturists can use acupuncture to treat nausea, neuropathy and pain management.
- Reiki: A Reiki master performs this Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that promotes healing.
- Journal therapy: Patients and family members can work with a journal therapist. The therapist may use guided writing prompts to help people express emotions and gain mental clarity and understanding.
Life with Cancer Nurse Navigators Support Patients Throughout Their Diagnosis
When people go through a stressful time, like dealing with a cancer diagnosis, the rush of adrenaline they feel can make it difficult to retain important information. Life with Cancer nurse navigators help keep track of important details. They get to know a person’s case intimately and can answer questions and relay information between specialists. A nurse navigator is one more person in your corner, ensuring you get the care you need.
Life with Cancer Helps Children and Teens Navigating Cancer
In addition to helping adults, Life with Cancer has a special pediatric program to help children and teenagers coping with a cancer diagnosis. The program offers individual counseling, art therapy and support groups to young people diagnosed with cancer, or those who have a parent or pediatric family member who have received a cancer diagnosis.
Why Support Is Crucial to People With Cancer
Receiving a cancer diagnosis often causes fear and uncertainty. A person may mourn the loss of their lifestyle, routines, and sense of self. Working with counselors and connecting with other people experiencing the same losses can give patients and families some sense of control, understanding and connection.
People with cancer often hear that they have to “be strong” or “hold it together,” but talking with a therapist or within a support group, can be a place to let out the emotions and lighten the emotional load. No one wants to have to walk into a cancer center, so Life with Cancer has made it their passion to ensure anyone who walks through their doors feels supported.
How to Access Life with Cancer Services
Visit Life with Cancer or call 703-206-5433 to make an appointment with a therapist, join a support group or take a class.