Oakwood, Cancer Society team up on resource center

Oakwood Healthcare and the American Cancer Society are teaming up to provide additional help to cancer patients.

The two organizations recently developed a Cancer Resource Center in the Radiation/Oncology Department at the Oakwood Hospital & Medical Center (OHMC) in Dearborn. The resource center is located in the lobby of the unit and designed to help patients find any type of service or volunteer help they need.

“It’s an extra layer of support,” said Emily Saoud from the American Cancer Society. “We want people to know it’s not just doctors and nurses behind their treatment. It’s a community effort.”

The Cancer Resource Center offers many different forms of assistance, both online and in person. It provides ways for patients and caregivers to connect with survivors and other volunteers – either one on one or in groups – to share experiences, learn about cancer, and gain encouragement. Cancer Resource Center volunteers also guide patients and their families through every step of the cancer experience, helping them understand the range of options and make the most out of the complex health care system. These programs and services meet needs that may arise from the day of a diagnosis through years after completing treatment.

“We do everything we can to improve quality of life for patients, caregivers, and survivors during and after diagnosis and treatment,” said Mitzi Cardona, Health Initiatives manager with the American Cancer Society. “Whether it’s as simple as providing an introduction to cancer.org, providing clinical trial information, helping with the management of treatment side effects, organizing rides to medical appointments, or helping with insurance and financial questions, the Cancer Resource Center’s volunteers offer help and hope throughout the cancer experience.”

The volunteers can help make the experience easier to handle, too. That was the case for Stan Kowalczyk II. He met volunteer Kathy Abarr about two weeks into his radiation treatment and said they quickly developed a good rapport.

“It feels good,” said Kowalczyk, a 54-year-old Gibraltar resident. “You’ve got an idea of what they’re going through and they’ve got an idea of what you are going through.”

Abarr, a Dearborn Heights resident, had just finished radiation treatment for breast cancer at the time and said the experience left her wanting to give back to the community. She is the lead volunteer for the resource center, rounding on the floors, talking with patients and their families, and leading group discussions.

“It’s been so uplifting for me,” she said. “I look forward to coming in to work and helping people. I let them know I’m here for them. Sometimes they just want to talk.”

The compassionate touch is just as important—if not more so—than the information and assistance provided through the resource center, said Christine Kupovits, interim director of the center.

“It’s not just about connecting patients to services; it’s about making a personal connection,” she said. “It can be very emotional for some patients dealing with their own or a family member’s cancer diagnosis.”

The Cancer Resource Center is located in a semi-private area in the department lobby and includes both a phone and computer, but its spirit pervades the entire department, including the dedicated cancer in-patient unit, according to Kupovits.

“Even though there’s a physical location, the Resource Center was modeled after a mobile concept,” she said. “Our volunteers spend time on all areas of the cancer center and on the dedicated in-patient unit.”

The Cancer Resource Center at Oakwood Hospital & Medical Center is located within the Center for Cancer Care in the Radiation Oncology department, and will be open Monday-Friday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Anyone seeking additional information about the Cancer Resource Center can do so by calling 1.800.227.2345

CUTLINES: (Top) Kathy Abbar, lead volunteer at the Cancer Resource Center at Oakwood Hospital and Medical Center in Dearborn. Above: Kathy Abarr talks with Stan Kowalczyk of Gibraltar about the assistance available through the Cancer Resource Center, a cooperative effort between Oakwood and the American Cancer Society.