The Women Guiding Women: Cancer Support & Education program is just one of the many unique services provided by our psychosocial oncology program that truly sets the MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute at Long Beach Medical Center apart. Women Guiding Women strives to provide compassionate support and mentoring from diagnosis, through treatment and in to recovery, to women who have been newly diagnosed with breast or gynecologic cancer.
It can be a very overwhelming time when someone is first diagnosed with cancer. Even with the love and support of family and friends they may still feel that no one really understands what they are going through - and therein lies the beauty of the Women Guiding Women program.
Women Guiding Women offers one-on-one support by matching newly diagnosed women with a specially trained cancer survivor mentor that has gone through a comparable experience and can offer their knowledge, support and encouragement. These mentors volunteer their time to help in any way they can, which can include answering questions, meeting with the patients, or visiting them during treatment, forming lasting relationships that often continue on into survivorship.
What Makes Women Guiding Women Truly Unique is its Mentors
“Mentoring is the cornerstone of this program,” says Randal Snyder, Manager, Women Guiding Women: Cancer Support and Education. “With more than 100 active mentors, we are able to closely match newly diagnosed patients with a mentor who, not only had the same type of cancer, but also underwent the same type treatment, is in their same age group and who has a similar family background or lifestyle.”
The program works hard to know their mentors on a personal level so that mentors are well matched with newly diagnosed women in every facet creating a genuine sense of understanding. “The match is truly compatible and we are even matched based on our personalities,” says Sunny Garcia, one of Women Guiding Women’s gynecologic cancer mentors.
However, the special relationships formed through Women Guiding Women don’t just impact the patients - in talking with the mentors you will quickly find that this program is just as beneficial to the mentors as it is for those who are newly diagnosed. Mentors often say that going through training to become a mentor, as well as supporting others in their journey, has helped them better understand their own cancer experience. “It helps you to know you are not alone, that all your fears are shared and it gives you a sense of community and fellowship,” says Garcia.
However, with everything the program has to offer perhaps the most impressive aspect of Women Guiding Women is the fact that it is available to all women with breast or gynecologic cancer, free of charge, regardless of where they are being treated.
“It is truly a remarkable community resource,” says Snyder, “and it is only because this community is so generous that we are able to offer such a program.”
Women who have been newly diagnosed with breast or gynecologic cancer can be referred to the program or get involved on their own and experience firsthand why Women Guiding Women: Cancer Support and Education is such a cherished program that continues to grow and foster support - creating a community of survivors.