Saturday, November 14, 2009

Guest blog post: Christina Koenig shares information about the Breast Cancer Network of Strength

Breast Cancer Network of Strength

“You have breast cancer” may be among the most frightening words a patient can hear a doctor utter. Yet in the United States more than 194,000 men and women hear them each year. A diagnosis may leave someone feeling alone, afraid and hopeless. But having information and knowing where to turn for support can help patients regain a sense of hope and control.

“Am I going to die?”
“My wife was just diagnosed with breast cancer. What do we do?”
“How can I make decisions about my treatment when I’m so upset?”

These are common questions among the 47,000 calls and e-mails that Breast Cancer Network of Strength’s 24/7 YourShoes™ Breast Cancer Support Center receives each year.

When breast cancer is the diagnosis, patients, families and friends want to know everything possible about the disease and how it will affect their lives. They need emotional support and crave information about treatment options and details about the disease, but they also need deeper knowledge.

For the newly diagnosed, support is crucial and it helps to talk to someone who has been through the same experience, a “peer.” Peer support is the cornerstone of Breast Cancer Network of Strength® (formerly known as Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization®).

Callers feel immediate emotional relief when they talk to someone who has walked in their shoes--one of our peer counselors--because, as breast cancer survivors, they truly understand what someone may be going through. Since this is such a meaningful concept, we named our peer support services YourShoes™.

“Even though my family is a great support system, I needed to talk to someone who had been in my shoes.”

YourShoes includes the 24/7 breast cancer support center staffed by peer counselors who are breast cancer survivors. Calls are handled in more than 150 languages through real-time interpreters.

It also includes e-mail-based support, match programs, and survivor-facilitated support groups. All questions are answered by peer counselors who are rigorously screened, trained and certified to help callers by giving emotional support and information about breast cancer procedures and treatment options.

Here are actual comments from callers:

“I didn’t know who to call, I needed to talk, I was frightened and I needed information. Thank you for being there for me.”

“I was feeling very vulnerable, sad and in shock. It was late at night and I found support through your service.”

“Your counselor was most helpful—compassionate, soft spoke and got me through a difficult night.”

“You are wonderful. You have been there from the first day I was diagnosed ‘til now.”

Peer counselors coach callers on how to communicate effectively with their doctors, and encourage them to be the key players on their health care teams. In addition, callers can be paired with match peer counselors who share similar diagnoses, ages or experiences.

Breast Cancer Network of Strength does not endorse specific treatment options or protocols and peer counselors do not give medical advice. They do, however, replace fear with facts and help patients understand how to weigh their options to make more personalized treatment decisions.

Since breast cancer affects not just the patient but the whole family and circle of friends, anyone touched by breast cancer or who is concerned about breast health can use the Network of Strength’s confidential and free services.

For breast cancer support or information including publications and newsletters, visit Breast Cancer Network of Strength or call 1-800-221-2141 (English, with interpreters available in 150 languages).

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