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.”