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Our Clubhouse: Importance of Emotional and Social Support for Those Diagnosed with Cancer
By Teddi Horvitz

Although there have been remarkable advances in biomedical care for cancer, 39% of Americans will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2016). Southwestern Pennsylvania is fortunate to have top-notch medical centers. Yet even the best medical facilities do not always have the time or resources to address the psychological and social challenges associated with cancer.

The importance of psychosocial support for people touched by cancer is widely accepted by the medical community. According to the Institute of Medicine (2008), the failure to provide psychosocial support "can compromise the effectiveness of health care and adversely affect the health of cancer patients."

Fortunately, those in Southwestern Pennsylvania do not have to face cancer alone.

Our Clubhouse is a non-profit organization that provides free psychosocial support for those living with cancer at any age, as well as the family and friends who care for them. Our Clubhouse is there at every stage: from diagnosis, through treatment, and in transition to life beyond the disease. Programming is provided in our Allegheny and Westmoreland County locations.

In addition to the cancer diagnosis itself and the medical treatment that follows, there are many emotional issues one faces. These include, but are not limited to anxiety, guilt, anger, fear, isolation, frustration and sadness. There are also social challenges one may experience such as: feeling disappointed by family/friends who are not supportive; loss of social life; spending less time with family; difficulty dating and awkward interactions with others.

To help manage these, it's important to take control of things that you can. Below are activities to try.

  • Exercise – light exercise such as yoga, Pilates and stretching help reduce depression and fatigue;
  • Nutrition - appetites are altered especially during chemo. Certain foods can help maintain energy;
  • Support - seek support from a support group where others are going through similar experiences, from a therapist or from family and friends;
  • Expression – Express your feelings through outlets such as art, music, dance or writing;
  • Complementary approaches – meditation, acupuncture and massage help manage stress as well as side effects of treatment.

Our Clubhouse Westmoreland offers exercise classes like yoga and stretching, art workshops, cooking demonstrations and support groups for anyone touched by cancer including the family and friends of a loved one with a cancer diagnosis. To learn more about Our Clubhouse and ways to manage these difficult emotions, visit http://www.ourclubhouse.org or call 724-221-6182.

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