New CMH program provides one-on-one support
(June 3, 2011) Calvert Memorial Hospital has received a grant from the Susan G. Komen Foundation Maryland Affiliate to create a SOS (Survivors Offer Support) program at its Center for Breast Care. SOS trains survivors to provide emotional support and practical advice to newly diagnosed patients as they cope with the challenges and changes they experience during treatment.
Calvert's breast center brings together a team of breast health experts - including breast imaging specialists from Johns Hopkins - with an experienced navigator back by the latest technology in one comfortable and convenient location. The center is located on the hospital's main campus in Prince Frederick.
"Our volunteers can offer insight like no one else can because they've tackled the disease themselves," said Denise O'Neill, who coordinates the SOS program at Calvert. She is at the CMH breast center on Fridays but can also be reached by phone at 410-535-8731 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
O'Neill, who is a breast cancer survivor, created SOS seven years ago. The program is now offered at 12 hospitals in Maryland/Washington DC and serves 22 percent of newly diagnosed patients. "We have 300 mentors statewide ranging from their late 20s to 80s," she said.
The survivor volunteers have successfully transitioned into life after breast cancer and share a desire to use their cancer experience to help others battle breast cancer. O'Neill said matches are made based on the patient's age, stage, surgery and treatment as well as interests and family background.
"SOS is a very flexible volunteer program," she said, "it allows survivors to give back in a meaningful way to the capacity that they can. We ask them to mentor at least one person per year."
According to O'Neill, volunteers typically spend 20-25 hours per year based on their schedule. "Phone skills are definitely important. Most contact is by phone or email," she said, "but we coach them to meet in person at least once."
To participate, mentors must submit an application along with two signed physician referrals, undergo an interview and complete a 4-hour training program. "I'm always available to support the mentors," said O'Neill. "They can call me at any time if they have questions or concerns."
If you need a mentor or are interested in becoming one, please call O'Neill at 410-535-8731. She said they're hoping to schedule their first training session as soon as they have 10-12 volunteers signed up.