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.