For some cancer patients, getting through treatment is a group effort—with friends, family and loved ones pitching in to help with medical appointments, sit through chemotherapy sessions and provide all-around support. But for others, cancer treatment can be incredibly lonely. Enter Chemo Buddies, a new website and advocacy movement that wants to ensure that no one has to undergo therapy alone, Healio reports.
Jill Kincaid, who lost her sister Karen Williams to cancer in 2011, started Chemo Buddies, after having witnessed firsthand the emotional toll that treatment can take. During her sister’s chemo sessions, she saw some patients sit through therapy alone for hours, tethered to an IV in a room with no TV or radio. A month after her sister (who nicknamed Kincaid her “chemo buddy”) died, Kincaid founded Chemo Buddies, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that dispatches trained volunteers to treatment rooms to provide companionship and support to patients.
“To me, this program is creating a living legacy to the kindness of my sister,” writes Kincaid, on the Chemo Buddies website. She got the program started after approaching hematologist/oncologist Anthony W. Stephens, MD, of Oncology Hematology Associates of Southwest Indiana, with her idea. At first, Stephens worried that the volunteer presence might be a nuisance. But Kincaid persisted, and eventually, they gave it a shot.
Volunteers must understand and follow the confidentiality guidelines set forth by HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and are prohibited from answering medical questions. They also must respect and work with the nursing staff, and be mindful of how they speak to patients. For example, chemo buddies cannot share stories about the death of someone with cancer. They cannot discuss matters such as a new diet or weight loss because doctors want their patients to be as healthy as possible throughout treatment.
Seven years after the program got off the ground, the benefits are apparent, says Stephens. Buddies help keep patients occupied, taking their minds off their fears. Chemo Buddies also help reduce the burden on nursing staff by handling small tasks and patient requests and fulfilling patients’ need for socialization and extra support.
Since 2011, Chemo Buddies has expanded to three other facilities throughout the region and has more than 30,000 patient contacts in a year, serving nearly 50 patients a day. Both Stephens and Kincaid are also advocating for other hospitals to consider similar programs.
To learn more about Chemo Buddies, go to www.mychemobuddies.org.