Hoag Oncology Support Services: Caring for the Whole Person

As a leader in cancer care in Orange County, Hoag Family Cancer Institute provides the latest in diagnostic and treatment capabilities to the community.

Yet for more than a decade, in addition to progressive treatment, Hoag Family Cancer Institute has offered a wealth of educational resources and support programs designed to address the physical, psychological, emotional, social and spiritual needs of cancer patients and those who support them.

Support for patients and their families

Through its dedicated clinical oncology social work team, Hoag Family Cancer Institute is committed to assisting patients and their families through the challenges associated with coping with cancer.

Hoag’s comprehensive oncology support services include:

  • Psychosocial assessment
  • Counseling/psychotherapy for adjustment to and coping with cancer
  • Support and educational groups
  • Provision of information and referral to community resources, including Hoag’s Hereditary Cancer Program, onsite registered dietitians and palliative care team
  • Self-management/self-care programs, including relaxation training, meditation for stress reduction and Reiki
  • Creative Expressions art program
  • Education on cancer survivorship and fertility preservation

“Hoag Family Cancer Institute support services team is pleased to offer a comprehensive program to our cancer community,” says Catherine Bailey, L.C.S.W., supervisor, Hoag Oncology Support Services. “Our patients’ well-being is a top priority, and through these services we address the needs of both the patient and their support persons on an emotional and psychological level."

All education and support programs are free of charge to Hoag Family Cancer Institute patients and their families/support persons.

Empowerment through education

Well-informed patients are better equipped to navigate the journey through cancer treatment and recovery. This is why Hoag Oncology Support Services provides numerous educational classes to help answer the many questions that come with a cancer diagnosis.

Hoag offers free educational classes on a variety of cancer topics, including skin care during cancer treatment, lymphedema education and a variety of comprehensive resources, including books, pamphlets, CDs, listings of community resources and Internet access at the Resource Library, located in the lobby of Hoag Cancer Institute.

Hoag Family Cancer Institute offers a comprehensive breast cancer educational series—Breast Cancer 101. This six-week educational program is for women newly diagnosed with breast cancer. Each week, breast cancer patients learn about the various aspects of cancer care, with topics such as: understanding your pathology report, chemotherapy and radiation Q&A, lymphedema prevention, nutrition and stress management. Registration for the class series is required.

In addition to patients, family members and/or support persons are also welcomed to take advantage of the educational classes and programs available at Hoag Cancer Institute. Such was the case for Beverly Olander. In 2003, Beverly’s husband Larry was diagnosed with lung cancer and was being treated at Hoag Cancer Institute. “When we came to the cancer center for Larry’s treatments, I always noticed all of the classes and activities they had going on,” says Beverly. “Larry and I decided to join in and try the meditation for stress reduction class.”

Meditation for stress reduction teaches patients and their support persons techniques for coping with the stresses, demands and challenges of cancer. This class is not a religious-based course, but instead focuses on the management of stress and anxiety. It is held in a four-week series, plus once a month for a refresher course, and is designed to improve quality of life through both peaceful and empowering stress reduction exercises.

“Although I wasn’t the patient, Hoag Family Cancer Institute understood that I too was going through the same ups and downs of life with cancer,” explains Beverly. “This class enabled me to reduce my anxiety and stress throughout my husband’s cancer treatment and recovery process, and focus instead on the larger picture of life.”

Through each treatment and check-up Larry had, Beverly would refer back to her meditation techniques to help keep herself calm in times of distress, which also benefitted Larry’s state of mind.

A fitter image

Another important component of Hoag Oncology Support Services is the Fitter Image exercise program. Hoag’s Fitter Image program offers a variety of physical activities that are provided in a non-competitive and supportive environment. Each class is fashioned to promote a sense of well-being and is tailored to each participant’s ability. Individuals can join classes at any point during treatment and can continue following recovery. The fitter image classes include yoga, pilates, and strength training.

One of the most popular components of Fitter Image, Hoag’s yoga classes, focus on stretching and breathing exercises that help cancer patients improve strength and flexibility, while calming the mind and soothing the body. “I was intimidated to take yoga at my regular gym,” confides breast cancer survivor, Gerry Kawamura. “Yet, after receiving a recommendation from my radiation oncologist, I decided to give Hoag’s yoga class a try.” That one try got Gerry hooked. Diagnosed with breast cancer in late 2005, Gerry remains a devoted yoga participant, regularly attending the classes held throughout the week.

“Everyone in the class, especially the instructor, is so friendly and welcoming,” continues Gerry. “These yoga classes have become my weekly support group. This class has enabled me to connect with other cancer patients and survivors and has provided me with a great network, as well as the numerous benefits that come from yoga.”

One of the key benefits of yoga is greater flexibility. Gerry has experienced this firsthand, and has shared with many of her friends and family how yoga has helped her better recover from her lumpectomy and radiation therapy sessions.

“I look forward to my special yoga time each week. Besides stretching and poses, yoga also has elements of meditation and controlled breathing techniques,” shares Gerry. “I encourage everyone to try yoga and experience the benefits!”

Support groups

Cancer support groups provide mutual support and information for cancer patients and their families. Facilitated by licensed oncology clinical social workers and oncology nurses, discussion is geared to the issues that cancer patients and their support network face from day to day.

Hoag Cancer Institute support groups include:

  • Brain tumor support group
  • Breast cancer support groups
  • Gastrointestinal cancer support group
  • Gynecologic cancer support group- Women Helping Women
  • Lung cancer support groups
  • Prostate cancer education and support group
  • Bereavement support group

Special to Hoag is the gynecologic cancer support group, Women Helping Women. As the only hospital in Southern California to provide this support group, the program is designed for women with any type of gynecologic cancer.

Click here to learn more about Hoag's comprehensive Oncology Support Services.