In an effort to provide support and education to cancer survivors and their loved ones, MeritCare Roger Maris Cancer Center, with the support of MeritCare Foundation, MeritCare Auxiliary and the North Dakota Cancer Coalition, is offering cancer survivors the opportunity to participate in the MeritCare Cancer Survivorship Program, "embrace." The program is the only one of its kind in the region.
Dr. Shelby Terstriep, oncologist/hematologist, MeritCare Roger Maris Cancer Center, says, "Once patients are done with their treatment, they oftentimes wonder – what's next? We want to provide patients with the information and support they need as they transition into life after cancer. As we get better at treating cancer, we must also focus on survivorship." Often, when patients come back to see their oncologist after their treatment is done, the focus is more about the lack of cancer; the emotional, psychological, physical and spiritual components become secondary. "embrace" will create a variety of avenues for patients to share their concerns, both with their oncologist and with other survivors. The program is being developed with input from both MeritCare staff (nurses, case managers, a chaplain, a psychologist) and cancer survivors.
The first tool that is currently available to survivors is the "embrace" Web site on meritcare.com, which includes:
- Helpful tools for patients to document information on their patient care team, medical history and family history.
- Information on the emotional effects of cancer.
- Information on survivorship events.
Survivors are also encouraged to go to embrace.meritcare.com and sign up to be part of an e-mail list; participants will receive survivorship information, updates on monthly meetings, find out more about ongoing research in survivorship, and receive information regarding local events supporting cancer causes. In the future, the site will include more interactive tools, and it's expected that a clinic for survivors will be created at the MeritCare Roger Maris Cancer Center.