Ryan Garcia joined Cancer Lifeline in January of this year as our Social Work intern. In this interview, Ryan reflects on his own experience with support groups and why our resources are especially important right now.
What is your profession and when did you first learn about Cancer Lifeline?
This is a bit of an interesting question for me to answer at this point in my life. Primarily, I am a graduate student at the University of Washington, currently pursuing my master’s degree in Social Work. My goal is to pursue a career as an oncology/medical social worker. I also happen to work part-time at the University of Washington Violence and Prevention Office “Safe Campus.” Lastly, but certainly not least, I do practicum/intern work for Cancer Lifeline. I heard about Cancer Lifeline through the UW School of Social Work’s field placement match program. The program essentially helps graduate students in social work find opportunities that will help them learn and grow while also working with communities they are passionate about serving. The work that Cancer Lifeline is doing caught the attention of the UW program as an excellent site where graduate students can learn and so when I saw the opportunity come on board as a practicum/intern, I jumped on it!
What do you see as the benefits of participating in an ongoing Support Group?
Like many people in the world, I have personally been impacted by cancer. Once when my youngest brother was diagnosed with a rare form of brain tumor and another when my uncle was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma. A huge benefit I see in participating in an ongoing support group really is in the reservation of space to experience one’s own journey with cancer. The beautiful thing about Cancer Lifeline support groups is that they are open to anyone impacted by cancer. If you have an active diagnosis, a cancer survivor, a family member, or friend of someone living with cancer or a caregiver, there are groups available to hold space with you. I will always be grateful for the time I spent in support groups during times cancer was impacting me personally if for no other reason, to simply have a space with people who were willing to sit with my grief, joy, pain, hope, and every single other morsel of emotion I experienced during those times. Not to fix them, not to save me from them, simply to sit and experience them alongside me. The friends I made in those groups were a huge bonus for me as well!
What do you see as the biggest needs cancer patients have during this time of COVID-19?
This can be a difficult question to answer as no two people with cancer will have the same experience and as life is nuanced, people’s needs will be nuanced as well. With that being said, I think the biggest thing I have observed would be the need for social support. Beyond the impact of public health and loss of life, COVID-19 has been a very isolating experience for everyone. Cancer patients are especially vulnerable as many have compromised immune systems as a consequence of their cancer treatments. A cancer diagnosis itself can be a very isolating experience, but now like never before, patients are finding themselves more and more isolated. Especially so if they are in an inpatient or hospital setting. I believe that any resources that attempt to bridge that gap in social support would be a worthwhile engagement, especially now.
Learn more about the more than 25 Support Groups Cancer Lifeline convenes monthly.