Cancer in the time of Covid: Flip the Script

In this regular blog post about Cancer in the time of COVID with Mary Ellen Shands, RN, we dive a little deeper into some of those reactions we may be experiencing and discuss strategies to help deal with them.


YES! Are we not thrilled to turn the page on the calendar and leave 2020 behind?  While starting a new year is symbolic of a NEW start, there was, of course, no magic wand that passed over the world at midnight on December 31st that made COVID-19 disappear, cured cancer, and ended social injustice.  While 2021 offers us many things to be hopeful about, we have a long way to go before our daily lives return to even some semblance of normal.


For many, living with a cancer diagnosis creates feelings of grief, anxiety, fear, anger, stress, isolation, and uncertainty. These feelings vary in intensity as time passes and we find ways to manage and deal with our reactions and emotions. There is no question, however, that last year provided many opportunities for these feelings to resurface and feel even more intense. What is interesting to think about is in addition to all that emotional upheaval and torment, people also began talking about positive and life changing responses to the events of last year.  Words like gratitude, connection, resilience, and self-compassion were popping up in conversations, internet posts, and support group comments.


Surprisingly, this is not a new phenomenon. When confronted in the past with pandemics, wars, and economic depressions, we flip the script, do our best to rise to the occasion, and keep moving forward with love and compassion.  As we continue our efforts to help bring this current pandemic under control in the months ahead and tap into our strength, resolve and inner resources for a bit longer, think about how gratitude, connection, resilience, and self-compassion can help.


Gratitude:  Think back over the last year…when and why did you feel a sense of gratitude?  We are all deeply grateful for our healthcare providers, first responders and essential workers. On a more personal level, were there moments when you were aware of a sense of appreciation for a kindness shown to you, for having a sense of well-being, getting a good night’s sleep or for simply getting through the day? Gratitude can come in these types of ‘small packages’ and we often let it slip away without acknowledging the positive feelings generated inside of us.  Pausing and taking note of when and why you felt a sense of gratitude helps navigate those dark moments and provide some needed comfort just when you really need it.  Many people keep a daily ‘gratitude journal’ that helps them keep track of these positive moments or feelings that they can then turn to later when needed.


Connection: Isolation and loneliness are not our friends.  We are, by nature, social beings.  We need to stay connected. Continue to set-up those ZOOM and Facetime meetings with family and friends.  Continue to join on-line support groups and be with others who “get you.”  Chances are you are going to make new friends and actually expand your support network.  Think about scheduling these sorts of activities just like you schedule taking your medications every day.


Resilience: We have been living with the pandemic for almost a year while also living with a cancer diagnosis.  Stop for a moment and reflect on what you have been able to do! We are often quick to see our shortcomings or challenges but not our strengths.  Write yourself a letter of admiration, create a collage, write a song or a poem…CELEBRATE YOU!


Self-compassion: None of us are perfect…we all mess up from time to time.  When we realize we weren’t at our best in a situation, instead of beating ourselves up, take control!  Acknowledging to yourself, and possibly others, that you could have done better and then FORGIVE YOURSELF – that action has powerful outcomes.  Holding onto guilt, anxiety and stress will get us nowhere and work against our efforts to find peace and comfort. Then, let it go!


Cancer Lifeline’s FREE Programs and Services for Cancer Patients, Survivors, and Caregivers,

may provide support as you work to increase gratitude, connection, resilience and

self-compassion in your daily life.


  • Register to join on-line support groups: Nothing can compare to the feeling of being a part of a community of people who truly understand your experience and “get it.” Support groups (all cancers and cancer-specific) meet regularly and welcome new members! For dates and times go to the Cancer Lifeline website


  • Call the Lifeline or use the Lifeline chat: Need someone to listen and help you sort out your feelings? Call the Lifeline at (800) 255-5505 or (206) 297-2500 (Monday – Friday 9am-5pm PST). Lifeline chat (instant messaging service) is also available Monday – Friday, 9am-5pm and can be accessed through the Cancer Lifeline website ( simply by clicking the green “We are here to listen” button.


  • Access Cancer Lifeline’s Cancer Psychotherapy and Family Support Programs: Visit or contact Pamela Krueger at or 206-832-1271.


  • Access Cancer Lifeline’s Therapist Referral Program: Receive names of therapists in the local community who have experience working with people affected by cancer.  Referrals and support in choosing a therapist are available for patients, survivors, family members, friends, and oncology professionals. Referrals are free.  Cancer Lifeline does not arrange payment with therapists on behalf of clients or check insurance benefits, this is the client’s responsibility. For more information, please call the Lifeline at 206-297-2500 between the hours of 9 am-5 pm PST.


  • Register for Cancer Lifeline’s Artistic Expression, Nutrition, Exercise, and Stress Management Classes. To register, please visit the Cancer Lifeline website: or call the Lifeline: (800) 255-5505 or (206) 297-2500 (Monday – Friday 9am-5 pm PST)
  • Join others at presentations that provide solid information & ideas about ways to manage
  • Meditation for Stress Reduction -Jan 19th, 12:30-1:30 pm
  • Coping with Cancer: Tools for Coping with Anxiety– Feb 10th, 12:30-1:30 pm
  • Comforting Yourself in Stressful Times-Feb 20th, 10a-11 am
  • Coping with Cancer: Tools for Managing Stress-March 10th, 12:30-1:30 pm
  • The Importance of Self Compassion– Apr 8th, 6:30-7:30 pm
  • Coping with Cancer: Tools for Dealing with Loss– Apr 14th, 12:30-1:30 pm
  • COVID-19 & Cancer: Managing Isolation -April 28th, 11am-12pm


To register, please visit the Cancer Lifeline website:  or call the Lifeline: (800) 255-5505 or (206) 297-2500 (Monday – Friday 9am-5pm PST)

Get to know Weston Pew, the Men’s Support Group Facilitator

Weston shares what to expect at the Men’s Cancer Support Group

“Individuals interested in our Men’s support group can expect an open, caring, welcoming, non-judgmental space where all the emotional complexity that arises from a cancer diagnosis is welcome. They can expect a space that offers them both the opportunity to be supported and to support others”.

What is your profession and when did you first learn about Cancer Lifeline?

I am a counselor, wilderness guide, and group facilitator; my work focuses on deepening individuals’ relationships with themselves, their communities, and their environment. I first learned about Cancer Lifeline’s work through its Program Administrator Pamela Krueger and was immediately inspired by its mission and vision.

What do you see as the benefits of participating in an ongoing Support Group?

Through such group work, we can lean on the support of others while also offering our support to those in need. Support groups tap us into the healing power of community and remind us that we are not alone in our journey.

What do you see as the biggest needs cancer patients have during this time of Covid-19?

COVID has unfortunately forced many who are dealing with cancer into isolation. One of the biggest needs for individuals and families dealing with Cancer is a community. People need to be reminded that they are not alone and need to connect with others on a similar journey. This is what Cancer Lifeline’s support groups offer–the healing power of connection found through community.


Check out the new online Men’s Cancer Support Group.

Spotlight On: Virginia Mason Cancer Institute

While the initial conversations with Virginia Mason Cancer Institute and Cancer Lifeline began several years ago, Cancer Lifeline’s programs at VMMC came online in 2019 with just a handful of support groups and classes. With patient feedback, Cancer Lifeline and Virginia Mason Cancer Institute work closely together to grow and diversify the range of offerings.


“Before the pandemic, we had regular meetings with Cancer Lifeline staff and relied on bi-directional touchpoints and patient surveys for feedback. In addition to being a member of our Cancer Committee, Cancer Lifeline’s staff made a lot of presentations directly to our docs,” said Virginia Mason Cancer Center Senior Director Maria Gonzalez.


Virginia Mason Cancer Institute Director Karen Hemeon added “Our social workers are even more connected in terms of an immediate feedback loop and are super plugged into driving the work to shift and respond to what our patients need.”


Nutrition classes focused on Healthy Eating & Cancer were just about to expand to include PCC with an interactive kitchen for cooking demonstration when COVID-19 hit.

“We were really looking forward to these interactive cooking classes that our patients wanted so much, when COVID-19 shattered our dreams,” said Gonzalez. “If there is any silver lining to the pandemic, it’s that by moving all of our programs online we’ve seen our patient attendance skyrocket. We can now reach patients and their families literally where they are. All the barriers for patients to be able to feel connected have been eliminated.”


“No other patient populations have been more quarantined and therefore more isolated than our oncology patients. The virus has dealt them a double whammy and puts them at even higher risk,” continued Gonzalez. “Cancer Lifeline has been a real lifeline for them and their families. They can now connect to others from the comfort of their own homes.”


“Cancer Lifeline is literally living up to its name as a lifeline in a new environment,” added Hemeon. “By being reachable through new platforms, its programs benefit the whole community.”


“Cancer Lifeline serves the Washington cancer community deliberately,” said Gonzalez. “Because it is a small agency, Cancer Lifeline is highly responsive and flexible. They bring a personal touch that is unique in this area. Added benefits include direct support by the Cancer Lifeline staff and their volunteers, offering touchbacks to Virginia Mason Cancer Institute patients in need including ongoing emotional support, program navigation and assistance getting connected to classes.”


Learn more about Cancer Lifeline programs at Virginia Mason Cancer Institute in Downtown Seattle and in Federal Way.



From the Executive Director – Winter 2020

Dear Friends of Cancer Lifeline:
Silver Linings. A handful of unexpected but welcomed discoveries have powered us through this most challenging and disruptive year.
At the onset of the pandemic, like most organizations, Cancer Lifeline moved everything online and our staff quickly set up offices at their dining room tables. At the same time, we held our signature fundraiser, Breakfast with Friends, in the virtual world. Since we had no idea when we might go back into the office, our programming team held Zoom clinics to help our clients connect and facilitators optimize their online experience.
One of the first silver linings we experienced is that our online programs can reach even more people. Those who were already limited in their mobility or by their treatment were able to join our support groups and classes. With traffic and parking no longer barriers, attendance at some online programs doubled or even tripled.
Throughout this tumultuous year, our programming team has stayed in close contact with our hospital partners and social workers. Since we are a relatively small organization with 9 staff members, we can innovate quickly and nimbly. When we learned that the virus was taking its toll on the emotional wellbeing of healthcare workers, we worked with our facilitators to pilot a program for stress management and issues related to the pandemic.
Under the leadership of Susan Baumgaertel, MD, our annual Breakfast with Friends fundraiser moved from a 7:00 am sit-down Breakfast in downtown Seattle to a three-week online campaign. Exceeding our budgeted goal, this year’s Breakfast raised over $250,000. We coached our keynote speaker and clients to film themselves with their iPhones so that we could post their messages on our event webpage. All 21 board members stepped up to reach out to their networks to raise funds. Again, with barriers to in-person participation eliminated, we were pleased to see over 500 donors with more than 300 of them making their first-ever donation to Cancer Lifeline.
Early in the pandemic, we learned that our partner Komen Puget Sound was unable to continue funding the Komen Patient Assistance Fund affecting nearly 500 low-income breast cancer patients.
At the end of 2019, our fall fundraiser Resources for Hope raised over $420,000 which meant that we were able to continue funding to low-income breast cancer patients throughout 2020 as well as patients with other cancers. Under the leadership of Monica Adams, this year’s fundraiser, held as a live-streamed event on October 17, raised more than $500,000! These funds are one-time grants made to cancer patients in need who are faced with choosing to continue their health care and meeting life’s necessities.
As 2020 thankfully comes to an end, I would like to acknowledge the steadfast work of our board members under the leadership of President Ben Hicks and of our Advisory Board members, under the leadership of Chair Lynn Behar. These teams have actively supported our fundraising efforts, bringing new sponsors, friends, and donors into our circles to help us to surpass our goals. I want to personally thank all of our 2020 sponsors for sticking with us as we transitioned our fundraisers into digital formats.
I would like to also thank our extraordinary volunteers for sharing countless hours of their time, energy, talents, and ideas.
Among these remarkable silver linings – more clients attending our programs, more board members joining our ranks, more donors participating in our online fundraisers, more connectivity with our hospital partners – there is one in particular that shines more brightly and that is you. Thank you for making a difference in the lives of people living with cancer.
In gratitude,
Joseph Yurgevich
Executive Director

Why I Give

Recently we caught up with long-time Cancer Lifeline Advisory Board Member and Chair of the Annual Resources for Hope fundraiser, Monica Adams to learn more about her on-going commitment to Cancer Lifeline. Monica is pictured here on the right with Lynn Behar.
What brought me to Cancer Lifeline?
My neighbor and dear friend, Lynn Behar brought me as a guest to a Resources for Hope dinner several years ago and I was deeply moved by the intimate gathering filled with meaningful conversation and information. I instantly felt a connection and believed it to be a safe place to put my heart. They were open to new ideas and fresh energy and educating me every step of the way!
What’s the best part about volunteering?
Volunteering is an important opportunity for me to give back and to make a difference. I feel surrounded by friends, family, and purpose.
Why do I give personally to Cancer Lifeline?
I have many friends and family members who are living with cancer, in fact, I just lost my mother this summer to cancer. As people are living longer with cancer through treatment, there are more and more people who need Cancer Lifeline services. I am inspired by Cancer Lifeline’s mission statement, “optimizing the quality of life for all people living with cancer.” For me, giving is an act of love.
Join Monica and others this GivingTuesday, December 1 by supporting Cancer Lifeline with an online donation. With your gift, we can continue to offer all of our services free of charge to those affected by cancer. All gifts up to $10,000 will be matched dollar for dollar on December 1, 2020.
For over 47 years, Cancer Lifeline has helped thousands of cancer patients build strength through support groups, classes in nutrition, exercise, personal expression, stress reduction, and personalized emotional support. Whether it’s providing one-to-one support through our Lifeline, providing grants through our Patient Financial Assistance Fund, or connecting individuals to others who can relate, Cancer Lifeline is here to help.
All Cancer Lifeline programs are free. This is all made possible by the generosity of individuals like you. No donation is too small and every gift helps. Thank you!

Why I Volunteer for Cancer Lifeline

I first learned about Cancer Lifeline through Volunteer Match. I felt that my training as a counselor, coupled with my past experience as a hospice worker, would serve me well as a Cancer Lifeline volunteer. Of the four members of my immediate family, I am the only one not to have received a cancer diagnosis in my lifetime. I was therefore intimately aware of the toll cancer takes on both
body and mind.
One doesn’t need a counseling background, however, to be a good fit for this work; empathy is at the heart of it all. I found the Lifeline training to be hugely instructive and inspiring as it teaches all the necessary skills you need to be successful.
To me, the most amazing thing about Cancer Lifeline is the culture of caring and mutual respect that prevails throughout the organization. I see this in the way that staff members interact with one another, with volunteers, clients, colleagues, and everyone in their orbit. I have felt embraced by CLL from the moment I first walked through their door.
I am thrilled to be able to offer people something so special. The person who calls about financial assistance and then discovers that we offer an empathetic ear, support groups, nutritional guidance, expressive arts…a light goes on for them. It’s amazing! In addition to answering the phone, I also prepare the mailing of the monthly financial-assistance checks. It may sound silly, but the act of putting a check in an envelope and, later, dropping that envelope in the mailbox, makes our help feel all the more immediate and tangible. I love that.

Cancer in the time of Covid: Get Ready for the Holidays!

This year the holidays will look and feel quite different for us.

As a result of the COVID-19 virus we are being compelled to not gather in numbers and to make an effort to reduce exposure to others.  What…no massive holiday dinners to prepare or parties to attend, no shopping ‘til we drop???  Might we really be able to follow through on our annual commitment to not become exhausted and overwhelmed?

Granted, we will be doing our best, despite our imposed limitations, to create an environment that allows us to celebrate and “connect” with the important people in our lives, so here are some tips to help us stay healthy and sane!

Connect, connect, connect – Just because we can’t hug and touch doesn’t mean we can’t “be with” those we love.  By now we have all probably figured out the wonders of the internet, Zoom, Facetime, etc.  MAKE A PLAN and set a date and time to “be with” family and friends over the holidays.  It is more important than ever this holiday season to combat isolation and loneliness.

Conserve your energy -Cancer and treatment are a HUGE energy drain.  PLAN your activities so that you have the energy to do what is most important to you.  Be honest with yourself about what you can and cannot do.

Attend to your own self-care – You know what you need to do to take care of yourself and it is critical to not let those things slip off your plate.  Get in a walk each day or whatever form of exercise you have been doing, take that afternoon nap and keep eating a healthy diet. If you practice meditation or mindfulness, be sure to continue with your practice.  All of your efforts toward self-care will BOOST your energy level!

On-line shopping – Accomplish in a few hours what usually takes days to do!  You won’t be putting your health at risk, stressing out over lines at the register, traffic or parking.

Managing the Emotional Triggers

The holidays can be an emotional time under the best of circumstances and this year your “emotional buttons” may be even bigger and more accessible.  Maybe the COVID virus is preventing you from traveling or gathering to be with those you love.  Maybe this is your first holiday living with a cancer diagnosis and the future feels so uncertain right now.  Maybe you are feeling so emotionally and physically depleted you are dreading the upcoming holidays.  Feeling sad, anxious, and stressed are absolutely normal, BUT you don’t have to be consumed by these feelings.


Create a NEW tradition – While we may not be able to engage in the holiday traditions we have come to look forward to, think about creating a new tradition.

  • Choose family or friends that you want to join you and set a date and time to have a virtual “toast” to the holidays.
  • Have everyone create a holiday decoration, set a date and time to have a virtual “show” and vote on the winning decoration.
  • Choose a day during the holiday season and go for an early morning walk or hike.


Celebrate resilience & strength – This has been a year unlike any most of us have ever known before. Obviously, we have been living with a pandemic for most of the year all while living with a cancer diagnosis.  Stop for a moment and reflect on what you have been able to do! We are often quick to see our shortcomings or challenges but not our strengths.  Write yourself a letter of admiration, create a collage, write a song or a poem…CELEBRATE YOU!

Talk and share your feelings with others – Nothing good will come from hunkering down with “me, myself and I” for days on end.  We run the risk of getting caught in that crazy cycle of unwanted thoughts that only raise our stress, anxiety and fear.  Having the opportunity to talk about all that is running through our heads diminishes the power those unwanted thoughts have over us!

Set-up REGULAR on-line visits and/or telephone calls with family and friends. There is tremendous value and comfort to be gained from seeing the faces and hearing the voices of the important people in our lives.

Register to join on-line support groups. Nothing can compare to the feeling of being a part of a community of people who truly understand your experience and “get it.” Support groups (all cancers & cancer specific) meet regularly and welcome new members!  For dates and times go to the Cancer Lifeline website

Call the Lifeline or use the Lifeline chat. Need someone to listen and help you sort out your feelings? Call the Lifeline at (800) 255-5505 or (206) 297-2500 (Monday – Friday 9am-5pm PST).  Lifeline chat (instant messaging service) is also available Monday – Friday 9am-5pm and can be accessed through the Cancer Lifeline website simply by clicking the green “We are here to listen” button.

Access Cancer Lifeline’s Therapist Referral Program. Receive names of therapists in the local community who have experience working with people affected by cancer.  Referrals and support in choosing a therapist are available for patients, survivors, family members, friends, and oncology professionals. Find out more at


Cancer Lifeline’s Facilitators Retreat

A gathering of the majority of our support group facilitators was held on July 22. This group photo was taken to commemorate the event.

Pictured, left to right, top row to bottom row:

Denise Krouse, EvergreenHealth Living with Metastatic Cancer Support Group

Pamela Krueger, Cancer Lifeline Clinical Program Administrator

Ada Pang, EvergreenHealth Breast Friends Support Group

Trenecsia Wilson, Valley Medical Hope in Your Heart & Survivorship Groups

Basha Brownstein, UWNW Women’s Group & Living with Cancer Group

Vivian Foxx, UWNW Living with Metastatic Cancer & Lymphedema Groups

Courtney Zier, Virginia Mason Living with Cancer & Dorothy O’Brien Young Adult

Caregiver Groups

Grace Yang, Dorothy O’Brien Young Adult Cancer Support Group

Keri McLerran, Virginia Mason Federal Way Living with Cancer Support Group

Brenda Joy, EvergreenHealth Gastrointestinal Cancers Support Group

Dianne Graham, EvergreenHealth Bosom Buddies & Overlake Living with Cancer Groups

Tricia Matteson, EvergreenHealth Living with Cancer & Oral, Head and Neck Cancer

Support Groups and UW Valley Women’s Cancer Support Group

Not Pictured but Present: Sandi Johnson, EvergreenHealth Lung Cancer Support Group

We spent the afternoon and early evening together, connecting to one another and sharing about the experience of facilitating the many support groups Cancer Lifeline offers (all groups are currently online).
Our agenda included; a warm-in round of self-introductions, small group breakouts about how facilitating support groups have affected each of us, several renewal practices to support the well-being of our facilitators (guided meditation, nervous system reset sequence, journaling, independent nature walk), a teach-in about the latest developments in psychological science related to support groups, and a discussion plenary about shared topics of interest. We shared a meal in the middle and supported one another as professional colleagues. Each of our support group facilitators is an amazing member of our Cancer Lifeline community and getting to experience natural connections together made for an inspiring experience. We hope to offer connecting retreats to nourish our support group facilitators on a regular, ongoing basis.
Learn more about our 27 cancer support groups. You can also contact us at (206) 832-1271 or through our Lifeline (800) 255-5505 or (206) 297-2500 (Monday – Friday 9 am-5 pm PST) and we’ll connect you to a group.

Cancer in the time of COVID: Resilence is key

On this blog we will dive a little deeper into some of those reactions we may be experiencing and discuss strategies to help deal with them. Next time, we will talk more in-depth about the double whammy of imposed isolation, resulting from cancer and COVID-19.
As if living with a cancer diagnosis wasn’t enough…
When the pandemic hit and created yet another massive shift in our day-to-day lives, it didn’t take long for Cancer Lifeline to jump into action and quickly figure out how to provide our clients with the programs and services they needed now more than ever. Starting in mid-March, Cancer Lifeline’s support groups, classes, and presentations went online! It was a steep learning curve for all of us, but it has proven to be a HUGE success.
While we are all missing the connections inherent in face-to face-contact, an amazing thing has also happened. Cancer Lifeline’s outstanding and robust programming is reaching MORE people than ever! Whether a yoga class, support group, or presentation, new clients are joining constantly. People from all over the state are signing up and attending programs. Clients, new and old, are attending because:
  • No traffic or parking hassles
  • Less energy expended to “log-in” rather than “drive-in”
  • It doesn’t matter where you live
In some ways, it is not a surprise that attendance is increasing, considering that the pandemic has only served to magnify the stress, fear, anxiety, and isolation that is inherent in living with cancer. Not to mention that living with yet another source of uncertainty can feel absolutely overwhelming for many of us. The question then becomes, how do we navigate our collective “new normal?” Especially since the experts are telling us we will probably be at this for some time yet.
In a statement published by the Washington State Dept. of Health, titled: Statewide High-Level Analysis of Forecasted Behavioral Health Impacts from COVID-19, there was text related to resilience that sure sounded familiar…
Resilience can be increased by:
  • Focus on developing social CONNECTIONS big or small
  • Reorienting and developing a sense of PURPOSE
  • Becoming adaptive and psychologically FLEXIBLE
  • Focusing on HOPE
Resilience is something that can be intentionally taught, practiced, and developed for people across all age groups (Hobfall , etal., 2007).
That is exactly what clients say they are able to take away from attending Cancer Lifeline’s programming!
Cancer Lifeline has now put together new and targeted programming to add even more new tools to your toolbox as you navigate the COVID-19 pandemic while also living with a cancer diagnosis. Below are ongoing or new classes and presentations:
  • Addressing Fears of Recurrence During COVID-19
  • Tools for Coping with Anxiety: COVID-19 & Cancer
  • Managing Isolation: COVID-19 & Cancer
  • Regular series classes such as yoga, meditation, coping with stress
  • Specialized offerings including presentations on COVID-19 & Cancer by an Oncologist
You can learn more here or you call the Lifeline:  (800) 255-5505 or (206) 297-2500 (Monday – Friday 9am-5pm PST)
  • The Lifeline is also available if you just need someone to listen, help you sort out your feelings, or if you just need some information.
  • Lifeline chat (instant messaging service) is also available Monday – Friday 9am-5pm and can be accessed through the Cancer Lifeline website simply by clicking the green “We are here to listen” button.
  • Support Groups (all cancers & cancer-specific) meet regularly and welcome new members!
Hobfoll, S. E., Watson, P. J., Bell, C. C., Bryant, R., Brymer, M. J., Friedman, M. J., Ursano, R. J. (2007). Five essential elements of immediate and mid-term mass trauma intervention: Empirical evidence. Psychiatry Interpersonal & Biological Processes, 70(4), 283-315.

Hospital Partner Spotlight: Halvorson Cancer Center at EvergreenHealth – Sue Smiley

Cancer Lifeline salutes EvergreenHealth, our longtime Eastside hospital partner. Sue Smiley is a member of the Evergreen staff and has been Cancer Lifeline’s champion for many years. We are grateful for Sue’s tireless efforts and innovations as CL’s programs have evolved. Our thanks to Sue for taking the time to answer our interview questions.
How long have you been with Evergreen and what is your title?
I have been at EvergreenHealth just shy of 30 years. My title is Radiation Oncology Manager. In that role, I’m privileged to serve on many committees focused on delivering cancer supportive care services to our community. The Cancer Lifeline partnership with EvergreenHealth has been part of my responsibilities for over 15 years.
How important is Cancer Lifeline to the local cancer community?
Research and experience show that people living with cancer benefit from supportive programs that address the emotional and physical challenges of cancer. Cancer Lifeline’s programs are evidence-based and provide a comprehensive set of supportive services for individuals and families living with cancer.   EvergreenHealth’s purpose is “working together to enrich the health and well-being of every life we touch.” Working together brings cancer supportive care close to home.
When did you first start coordinating with Cancer Lifeline and our programs? How have things grown over time?
It all began around 2004, when I met with then Executive Director, Barbara Frederick, to talk about the possibilities of bringing Cancer Lifeline services to the Eastside Community.  Within a short few months, Cancer Lifeline opened an Eastside facility in the Eastgate area of Bellevue, offering a few support groups and classes.   In 2007, we began a new chapter with moving the program to the campus of EvergreenHealth.  Working together, we were able to expand programming to meet the needs of patients living on the Eastside.  In 2012, EvergreenHealth’s cancer center moved into new spaces and in a new partnership with the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. The new facility provided dedicated space for Cancer Lifeline classes and support groups, which included adding Gentle Yoga and Cooking demonstrations.
How do Evergreen patients learn about Cancer Lifeline? 
 We have information inserted into every new patient packet and the staff/providers receive training and ongoing updates to CL programs which allows them to talk with their patients about the resources available for supportive care services.
What observations do you have about the benefits of CL programs?
While both organizations have had to come to grips with providing services during a pandemic, we both knew that cancer care and support will and must continue. The feedback received from the clients attending support groups, classes, and special events is so positive that we knew we must find a way to continue on. Cancer Lifeline is just what the name says. It’s a lifeline to so many people during one of the toughest times in their lives. Fortunately, for EvergreenHealth, we have the best partner to meet this need.
How is the quality of the programs maintained?
Cancer Lifeline taps into many ways for client and partnership feedback. Cancer Lifeline conducts its own regular client surveys and receives regular feedback through debriefs with the professional facilitators. Also, CL staff meet with Evergreen’s cancer support services staff to receive their feedback/recommendations which guide program growth and development.
How are new program ideas generated? 
While I have not personally facilitated a class or support group, many EH staff have either provided facilitation or was a speaker at one of the classes. My role has been to work with CL staff to develop on-going programming which includes the conveyance of new ideas.   By our suggestion, Cancer Lifeline helped to meet our patients’ needs to provide site-specific support groups. Since 2012, CL offers site-specific support groups for those living with Metastatic Cancer, Lung Cancer, Prostate Cancer, GI Cancers, Breast Cancer, and Oral Head and Neck Cancers.  Expanding to site specific groups allows for relevant topic discussions along with emotional support. We currently offer 8 Support Groups.
What changes have you noticed since Cancer Lifeline moved all our programs online?
CL responded very quickly in the best way possible since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, we have learned that offering only onsite programs may actually be limiting participation. We have seen an increase in the number of patients participating in online support groups, which may become the best option for the future.