How the Northern Kentucky Cancer Support Group Adapted to the Times

NORTHERN KENTUCKY – When it comes to cancer, emotional support can often take a back seat to physical treatment, said Gretchen Ramstetter, vice president of development for the Greater Cincinnati / Northern Kentucky Cancer Support Community.

What would you like to know

  • Cancer Support Community of Greater Cincinnati / Northern Kentucky is a non-profit organization that helps people with cancer create a sense of community
  • This ability to build community was put to the test during the pandemic when the organization had to shut down in-person services.
  • Support community shifted to online support groups
  • The organization said it was able to reach more people than ever before, but it is difficult to replicate the connections that form in person.

And during the COVID-19 pandemic, that problem got even worse, she explained.

“As we all know, cancer is scary. Cancer in the midst of a global pandemic is terrifying. So while we were all sheltered in place, feeling the isolation, the loneliness, the depression, the anxiety, the uncertainty and really basically the fear is what our participants feel at the daily with what they’re going through, ”Ramstetter said. “And so when you superimpose a pandemic of this nature on top of that, it was really a difficult process to see a lot of our attendees having to say goodbye to what they consider to be their home.”

“Cancer, when it arrives at home, can be very, very isolating, very anxiety-provoking, and it really affects the whole family, not just the person going through it,” said Executive Director Kelly Schoen.

Cancer Support Community of Greater Cincinnati / Northern Kentucky is a non-profit organization that helps cancer patients, survivors, family members and anyone affected by cancer through the experience by creating a sense of family and connecting people. Everything is free.

This is something that was difficult to do during the pandemic when people were told to stay away to stop the spread of the virus. The organization had to suspend its in-person support meetings.

However, Schoen said the organization was able to continue to connect people regardless. Support groups and educational programs have been organized on Zoom.

“It might sound strange, but we found a silver lining to the pandemic, it made us quickly understand how to do things virtually. So we haven’t missed a day of programming during that time, ”said Schoen. “We were in contact with people who would never have been to our building. “

Knowing that many participants live on their own, the support community has made many more one-on-one calls to verify people, Ramstetter said.

Schoen said the virtual sessions helped people feel empowered and educated to ask the right questions for their treatment plan. As the group begins to organize face-to-face meetings, the virtual component will continue. In-person meetings require masks and social distancing for safety reasons.

“But what we lack are these normal little interactions. Talking in the kitchen after the programming, chatting as we walk through the door. Nothing can replace some of these things, ”said Schoen.

The organization has a new partnership with St. Elizabeth Healthcare. Meetings are held at the innovative St. Elizabeth Edgewood Oncology Center.

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