Breast Cancer Visitation Program Helps Newly Diagnosed Patients

For more than 40 years, the American Cancer Society’s Reach to Recovery program has helped people (female and male) cope with their breast cancer experience. This experience begins when someone is faced with the possibility of a breast cancer diagnosis and continues throughout the entire period that breast cancer remains a personal concern.

“When people first find out they have breast cancer, they may feel overwhelmed, vulnerable, and alone,” commented Mike Lefler, Director of Communications for the Nebraska Region of the American Cancer Society.  “While under this stress, many people must also learn about and try to understand complex medical treatments and then choose the best one.  Reach to Recovery allows these patients to have a little bit of guidance and stability during the entire process.”

Talking with a specially trained Reach to Recovery volunteer at this time can give a measure of comfort and an opportunity for emotional grounding and informed decision-making. Volunteers are breast cancer survivors who give patients and family members an opportunity to express feelings, talk about fears and concerns, and ask questions of someone who is knowledgeable and level-headed. Most importantly, Reach to Recovery volunteers offer understanding, support, and hope because they themselves have survived breast cancer and gone on to live normal, productive lives.”

How it works

Through face-to-face visits or by phone, Reach to Recovery volunteers give support for:

  • People recently diagnosed with breast cancer
  • People facing a possible diagnosis of breast cancer
  • Those interested in or who have undergone a lumpectomy or mastectomy
  • Those considering breast reconstruction
  • Those who have lymphedema
  • Those who are undergoing or who have completed treatment such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy
  • People facing breast cancer recurrence or metastasis (the spread of cancer to another part of the body)

Volunteers are trained to give support and up-to-date information, including literature for spouses, children, friends, and other loved ones. Volunteers can also, when appropriate, provide breast cancer patients with a temporary breast form and information on types of permanent prostheses, as well as lists of where those items are available within a patient’s community. No products are endorsed.  Aside from the emotional support provided, volunteers may also assist patients with other resources within their community to help them through treatment and beyond.

For more information or to locate a Reach to Recovery program in your area, visit “In Your Area” on our Web site at www.cancer.org or call us toll-free at 1-800-227-2345.

Reach to Recovery volunteers

Reach to Recovery works through carefully selected and trained volunteers who have fully adjusted to their breast cancer treatment. All volunteers complete an initial training and participate in ongoing continuing education sessions.

If you are a breast cancer survivor who has overcome cancer to regain a well adjusted and emotionally stable everyday life, call us toll-free at 1-800-227-2345 or call your local American Cancer Society office to become a Reach to Recovery volunteer.  Volunteers must be out of treatment for one year before serving in the Reach to Recovery program.

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Omaha Woman Receives Prestigious Terese Lasser Award for Commitment to Breast Cancer Support Program

Sandra Wolff of Omaha was recently recognized with the prestigious Terese Lasser Award for her outstanding contributions to the Reach to Recovery program.  The award may be presented by each state in the High Plains Division each year and is awarded based on compliance with Reach to Recovery policies, feedback from those interacting with the volunteer and impact on their communities.

Wolff has personally met with many newly diagnosed breast cancer patients and coordinates all Reach to Recovery referrals in her role as a Registered Nurse with Methodist Health System.  Her work as coordinator for the Reach to Recovery program in Omaha is instrumental in matching women who are newly diagnosed with breast cancer to trained volunteers who have been through similar diagnosis for support.

“Sandra has made great effort to really know the Reach to Recovery volunteers and does an exceptional job of matching patients with volunteers,” commented Kate Oelke Turner, Community Manager for the American Cancer Society.  “She does an amazing job of exhibiting warmth and kindness while at the same time being exceptionally professional in all circumstances.  She really is a treasure to work with.

The award honors Terese Lasser.  Following her own breast cancer experience in 1952, Lasser began the Reach to Recovery (RTR) Program.  In 1969, the program was adopted by the American Cancer Society as one of its nationwide programs.  With its implementation, the American Cancer Society sought to achieve several long-term goals through this program.  These goals are: to provide increased hope for long-term survival to breast cancer patients through information and support; to provide increased confidence in treatment decision making to breast cancer patients; to encourage breast cancer patients to turn to the American Cancer Society throughout their cancer experience; to generate support for the RTR program from health care providers; and to improve the quality of life of individuals affected by the breast cancer experience.

(Photo l to r: ACS Regional Vice President Joy King, Sandra Wolff, ACS Community Manager Kate Oelke Turner)

ACS Offers Support Groups in Omaha to Help People Cope with the Holidays

The American Cancer Society, in conjunction with Alegent Health, Methodist Estabrook Cancer Center and the Nebraska Medical Center, will offer a pair of support groups to help those going through a cancer diagnosis cope with the emotional stress of the Holidays.

On Thursday, November 19, a support group for colorectal cancer patients will focus on spirituality and coping with the Holidays.  Josh McDonald, staff chaplain from Alegent Health Pastoral Care will present the program from 5:30-7:00 p.m. at the American Cancer Society office at 9850 Nicholas Street in Omaha.  A light dinner will be provided at this meeting.

On Wednesday, December 9, a support group is open to caregivers caring for adult cancer patients.  The topic of this session will be surviving the Holidays presented by Holly Adams and Linda Dempsey of the Alegent Health Cancer Support Team.  The group will meet from 4:00-5:30 p.m. at the American Cancer Society office at 9850 Nicholas Street in Omaha.

“These support groups provide a great opportunity for those going through cancer to talk with experts as well as others going through similar circumstances,” commented Lisa Vignolo, Community Manager for the American Cancer Society.  “It is so very important for cancer patients and caregivers to not only focus on their physical health, but their emotional well-being as well.  That’s what these support groups are here to accomplish.”

Anyone wishing to reserve a spot in either of the two support groups needs to make a reservation by calling the American Cancer Society at 402-393-5801.  Reservations for the Nov. 19 session should be made by Monday, Nov. 16 and reservations for the Dec. 9 session should be made by Dec. 4.