Women Guiding Women: 1 of Only 2 Peer-Mentor Program for Cancer that Effects Women in the U.S


Many newly diagnosed cancer patients, feel overwhelmed by high anxiety and stress. That’s why the Women Guiding Women: Cancer Support and Education Program at the MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute (TCI) at Long Beach Memorial was created.

The Women Guiding Women: Cancer Support and Education program is unique, because it supports both gynecological cancer patients as well as breast cancer patients. As one out of only two programs in the nation that offers a gynecologic peer-mentor program, Women Guiding Women offers newly diagnosed women with gynecological and breast cancer a much needed support network regardless of their financial means or where they are receiving treatment.

As part of the psychosocial oncology support programs offered at TCI, Women Guiding Women provides a coping map for women with cancer. In an effort to meet the needs of each individual patient, Women Guiding Women works closely with psychiatrist and medical director of the psychosocial oncology program, Mariuz Wirga, M.D., an oncology life coach, social workers and cancer survivors that offer their support as mentors.

Although the entire psychosocial oncology team offers valuable support to newly diagnosed patients, having mentors as a resource truly sets this program apart from the rest. Mentors are cancer survivors that are willing to share their journey, with someone who is going through a similar experience. Becoming a mentor requires many hours of training to learn how to communicate appropriately, protecting patient privacy, offering insight to all available resources, clinical care and ultimately being able to share their own experiences as a cancer survivor.

Mentors and newly diagnosed patients are generally matched together based on a similar diagnosis, age or ethnicity. Along with providing service to newly diagnosed patients, the Women Guiding Women program also offers resources to patients’ spouses and family members.

In addition to offering a vast amount of resources to newly diagnosed patients, women that choose to receive support often give back to Women Guiding Women by participating as mentors themselves once they’ve survived cancer. Patients choose to participate as a mentor because of the rewarding experience they had when they were a mentee, or the desire to help a fellow woman who has cancer. Through patient and doctor referrals, Women Guiding Women: Cancer Support and Education can continue offering support to women newly diagnosed with cancer.

“It’s powerful for a newly diagnosed woman to talk to a survivor,” says Randal Snyder, co-manager of Women Guiding Women at the MemorialCare Breast Center at Long Beach Memorial. “The mentors promote optimism during a difficult time in the mentees life.”