CRH Cancer Support Group Promoting Emotional Wellness For Patients – Jamaica Information Service
Dealing with cancer is undoubtedly a stressful experience for anyone affected in this way.
But the Cancer Support Group at the Cornwall Regional Hospital (CRH) in St. James has been helping many people affected by the disease get along emotionally and spiritually for several years.
Since its inception in 2004, the group has provided cancer patients with a safe space to share their experiences and emotional challenges while creating a sense of belonging and normalcy.
Members meet regularly at the CRH with the group’s Chaplin, Rev. Melvorn Stewart, and group chairman Dr. Juanette Jordon.
On Thursday, February 4th, which was celebrated as World Cancer Day under the motto “I am and I will”, the group and their volunteers organized a public awareness campaign in the hospital.
During this engagement, patients from the oncology department received educational materials about cancer and participated in a devotional exercise.
This was followed by the handing over of gifts including mouthguards made by members of the group.
Members of the Cornwall Regional Hospital (CRH) Cancer Support Group with gifts given to patients in the hospital’s oncology department on February 4th, World Cancer Day. Sharing the moment (from left) are cancer survivors Claudette Reynolds and Pauline Parkins, as well as Chaplin from the group, Rev. Melvorn Stewart.
“Special masks were made for this occasion. The masks had different logos and [colours] because different colors represent different types of cancer and customers in oncology receive free masks, ”said Dr. Jordon with.
She told JIS News that the group also met with patients on whom members encouraged them to join the fight against cancer, which is one of the leading causes of death among Jamaicans.
“Go early and have it [yourself] checked out because cancer does not have to be a death sentence, ”emphasized Dr. Jordon.
She added that “we have preached health and wellbeing and tried to take some of the fear and taboos off things like the prostate exam because some of the men don’t like the rectal exam”.
Over the years, the support group and its partners, the National Health Fund (NHF) and the Jamaica Cancer Society, have successfully organized a number of free screenings to check for prostate and cervical cancer and other forms of the disease.
In 2019, more than 400 men in St. James were screened for prostate cancer and vancomycin-resistant enterococcal (VRE) infection.
“[We are] just generally encourage them to take care of their bodies and health. People diagnosed with cancer are sometimes very anxious and go through a lot of emotional trauma. Therefore, the group is involved in supporting and encouraging these patients on their way, ”said Dr. Jordon.
She gave examples of women who had breast cancer and were reluctant to come forward and seek support.
“So the group is involved in encouraging them along the way, so that they can move forward. I know members of the group who have actually followed patients to go to the doctor for various tests to make sure they do, ”she added.
Dr. Jordon noted that this has led to many survivors who, through the group, have shared their experiences to motivate others to come forward and seek help.
One of those cancer survivors is Shanelle Hamilton, who was diagnosed with metastatic cancer in April 2018 at the age of 22.
For Ms. Hamilton, the group was a welcome proverbial lifeline as members stood by and supported her and her family.
She told JIS News that it gave her the courage to face her health problem, adding that she completed chemotherapy within five months of her diagnosis.
Ms. Hamilton said subsequent testing had so far shown no recurrence of the disease, adding that it gave her the peace of mind to focus on her son’s development and career as a life insurance broker.
“They take care of their patients as best they can. In my case, I had to stay in the hospital for four days straight. So if you do your part, they will help you and do their part too, ”she indicated.
Ms. Hamilton acknowledged that not everyone benefits from the type of support the group provides.
“[Support is] really important. So I would recommend it to everyone, including those who just want to know [cancer],” She said.
Another survivor, Pauline Parkins, has been a member and volunteer of the group for more than 10 years.
Ms. Parkins, who has survived breast cancer for 16 years, was introduced to the group by a friend and soon became an active member.
She was instrumental in distributing the masks she helped make on World Cancer Day, and had the opportunity to share her journey and provide emotional support to others, especially those with cancer.
“I have the option of going to the hospital ward to help others who have just been diagnosed or are undergoing surgery or treatment as some of them are frustrated and anxious,” said Ms. Parkins.
She told JIS News that when you talked to a patient, you could see their facial expressions and body language as if to say, ‘You can keep talking, you don’t understand’.
“When I said to her – ‘I was there’ [and] done ‘- she looked up, smiled and hugged me tightly. So what I shared with her wasn’t lip service…. It was an experience, ”she added.
Ms. Parkins encourages cancer patients seeking emotional support and counseling to join the Cancer Support Group at Cornwall Regional Hospital because “Cancer is not a death sentence…. You can do it”.