Brain Tumor Program Pairs Mentors with Newly Diagnosed Patients

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Mentor Collin June at his day job at the UC Medical Center.
Photo by Cindy Starr / Mayfield Clinic.

For patients who have been diagnosed with a brain tumor, the UC Brain Tumor Center offers this guarantee: you need not travel the path alone.

A recently established mentoring program, Allies for Hope and Healing, seeks to pair patients who have been newly diagnosed with a benign or malignant brain tumor with a mentor who also has had experience in fighting a brain tumor, either as a patient or a family member.

“Our team of volunteers offers comfort, helps to reduce anxiety and lends a sympathetic ear to patients who choose to share their concerns,” says Jennifer Ross, RN, a Nurse Navigator for the UC Neuroscience Institute, one of four institutes of the UC College of Medicine and UC Health.

Ready and eager to lend that sympathetic ear are four mentors, each of whom has undergone training at Cancer Support Community  (formerly known as the Wellness Community) of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Allies for Hope and Healing was modeled after Cancer Support Community’s mentoring program, which serves patients with all types of cancer.

During training, the UC Brain Tumor Center’s mentors review issues related to privacy and professionalism. They are taught, for example, to listen and offer encouragement but to refrain from offering medical advice. Two of the mentors are also hospital volunteers, which enables them to visit with hospitalized patients who wish to speak to another person who has experienced brain cancer.

Patients who enter the Allies for Hope and Healing program are likely to be matched by age and lifestyle rather than by specific diagnosis. “If we have a young mother who is about to undergo chemotherapy and radiation, we want to match her with someone who has also experienced those treatments,” Jenny says.

After a match is made, the mentor contacts the patient directly, either by e-mail or phone, whichever the patient prefers.

A recent patient-mentor pairing matched Jennifer, who was recently treated for a meningioma, with Collin June, who was treated for a meningioma when he was child.

“Even though I had my friends and family to support me after surgery, I felt alone,” Jennifer recalls. “They didn’t understand what I was going through, and I didn’t know if the feelings I was experiencing were normal. Then I was connected to Collin, and we talked for 45 minutes about my feelings and recovery. Talking to him made me feel at ease and reassured me that I would get better!”

Collin says he would have enjoyed having a mentor himself, back when he “was going through the ups and downs” after surgery. “Looking back over the years, I can think of many times that I could have used someone to talk to during my brain tumor recovery, so being part of this new program that provides further support and care for brain tumor patients has been a very rewarding experience,” he says. “I believe there is great peace of mind in knowing that you can contact someone who has been through something similar if you are having a bad day or are struggling with a certain issue.”

Allies for Hope and Healing is part of the Brain Tumor Center’s overall commitment to compassionate care for patients and their families. That commitment also includes the Katarina’s Care Bag program, in which new patients are given a bag with items, such as a deck of cards and a pen and notepad, that will come in handy during their hospital stay.

Allies for Hope and Healing welcomes patients and family members. For more information, or to be matched with a mentor, contact Jennifer Ross at jennifer.ross@uchealth.com or (513) 584-7043.

– Cindy Starr

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