When someone is diagnosed with cancer, the immediate concern is his/her physical health, eliminating the cancer and getting into a treatment program. Cancer survivors need more than just chemotherapy, radiation or surgery. Roshanda Poole, a social worker at Virginia Oncology Associates (VOA), said there are many ways that a cancer patient, survivor, their families and caregivers need support throughout the process.

Emotional Support

“Many cancer patients struggle with isolation,” Poole noted. “They often believe they are the only one struggling with their disease and that talking about it with others will make them uncomfortable.” Poole said much of her job is simply listening to patients and being emotionally supportive during a difficult time. Often, patients do not want to burden their families with the details of their treatment, so having an outlet and someone with whom to talk can reduce their anxiety. In fact, anxiety is a major issue with which Poole’s team helps patients through talking, art therapy, music and more.

Financial Support

Cancer can be an expensive illness to treat, but there are lots of financial resources available to patients. At VOA, financial advisors are on staff to help patients with their medical expenses and their day-to-day finances. Often, when someone is battling a very serious cancer, he/she may have to take time off work, exacerbating his/her financial situation. The financial support team understands the ins and outs of Medicare assistance, insurance co-pays, medication assistance, and more that can help reduce the burden and stress around cancer’s cost.

Insurance and Paperwork

Filling out paperwork, filing claims, and working with insurance companies is exhausting for anyone, but for someone battling cancer, it can seem like an impossible feat. Patient benefit representatives at VOA are available to every patient to ensure that insurance documentation is done correctly and quickly and also to ensure a patient is using every benefit available. They also work frequently with non-insured and underinsured patients, helping find resources that will assist in paying medical costs. Taking this burden off a patient’s shoulders is huge and can help the patient focus on recovery and family life.

Resource Support

Poole said that many times patients are simply not aware of all the resources available to them and their families. The support services team at VOA is constantly looking for ways to connect patients to helpful services such as support groups, nonprofit, and community organizations, survivorship groups, nutritionists, financial counselors, disease-specific organizations, and more. When a patient comes into Poole’s office she does a complete needs assessment and from there is able to determine exactly which resources will be beneficial to that person.

Caregiver Support

Perhaps the most overlooked person in the cancer treatment process is the caregiver. It can be a lonely and stressful job and understandably, everyone’s concern is for the person with cancer, not the caregiver. In order to do the best job supporting their loved ones, caregivers need support, also.

Poole’s office is open to patients and caregivers, and many of the resources and help she provides are as beneficial for a caregiver as they are for a patient. Common conversations with caregivers include the kind of support they can be giving their loved ones, the ways in which their loved ones may be putting up defense systems around their cancer, and how their own personal lives are being affected by the disease.

While every cancer patient is unique, the kinds of support they need are nearly universal. At VOA, Poole and her team meet patients and caregivers at any point along their journey -- from diagnosis to treatment to remission and beyond.

“Our patients give me motivation and courage and show me that I need to live the life I want to live,” stated Poole whose goal is to help her patients live the life they want to live as well.