The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

June 26, 2013

Virtual support group for bladder cancer patients

By Kendall Atkins for the SNAP

Wednesday, June 26, 2013 — The Levine Cancer Institute offers a virtual bladder cancer support group meeting once a month to inform patients about all aspects of cancer and offer support to patients.

On the second Tuesday of each month from 1:30-3 p.m., participants can attend the support group meeting in the conference room at Stanly Regional Medical Center.

“Any bladder patient and/or spouse/caregiver can attend the group regardless of where they are in the treatment/survivorship continuum,” said Patrick Meadors, PhD, LMFT, manager and psychosocial oncology at Levin Cancer Institute, Survivorship and Integrative Oncology.

Each meeting broadcasts from the Levine Cancer Institute in Charlotte, and has physicians as speakers who talk about the signs, symptoms and treatment options of bladder cancer.

A dietician will also be attending an upcoming meeting to offer nutrition advice for bladder cancer patients.

“The Virtual Bladder Cancer Support Group is the first support group,” said Meadors, “attempting to virtually link patients via videoconferencing across a wide geographical area within the same healthcare system.”

“Levine Cancer Institute is committed to providing ‘Cancer Care Without Walls’ and a virtual/videoconferencing support group will allow patients to bridge the geographical distances, meet other patients with similar diagnoses, give and receive support from patients and facilitators and have access to expert physicians and interdisciplinary clinicians across the entire Levine Cancer Institute network in North and South Carolina.”

Derek Raghavan, MD, PhD and president of the Levine Cancer Institute is the man responsible for the idea of Cancer Care Without Walls. Raghavan had a vision of a program that would link people from all over the Carolinas and allow individuals to connect with more patients and physicians than those in their local communities.

Judy Fenton-Ray, Stanly Regional Medical Center director of radiation therapy, attends the virtual meeting as a facilitator, and she is available to offer assistance and support for patients.

“We try to offer as much support as we can for our cancer patients,” she said.

With the meeting being virtual, participants can see one another and call in with questions or comments via a microphone. Patients can tell their story, thus encouraging and supporting one another.

On June 11, the second meeting so far, Robert Preiser, a bladder cancer survivor and New London resident, attended the support group meeting with his grandson.

Preiser described his experience with bladder cancer as “life disrupting,” as you feel the need to use the bathroom 24/7, and when you go it’s extremely painful.

Preiser also explained how he reacted when he first found out he had cancer.

Preiser’s nurse informed him that he had cancer, prompting Preiser to ask for about 10 minutes alone to let the news sink in.

When his nurse left, Preiser began to talk to God saying, “What now Lord?” to which he said God responded, “I’ll take this one.”

“And he did,” said Preiser, in regard to God’s response.

Upcoming dates for the virtual bladder cancer support group meeting are: July 9, Aug. 13, Sept. 10 and Oct. 8.

“Eventually, we would like to share the expertise that all Levine Cancer Institute facilities have (facilitator, physicians, etc.) and provide numerous virtual support groups focusing on various patient diagnoses (breast, head and neck, lung, etc.) and other focus groups (caregiver support, general cancer, survivorship school, coping, etc.),” said Meadors.

“All Levine Cancer Institute facilities are united by their mission and commitment to providing consistent quality cancer care and delivering psychosocial support throughout the region.”

Kendall Atkins is a freelance contributor for The Stanly News & Press.