2013-05-30 / Lifestyles

Former resident giving ‘hope’ to cancer patients

Bag program provides resources to patients


Ruth Beach Ruth Beach BENTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. – Ruth Beach, a graduate of the Manistique High School Class of 1981, remembers how it felt when her doctor told her the dreaded news, “You have cancer.” She said it was overwhelming because she was suddenly flooded with medical information about her options in treating her cancer. But something was missing. She felt unprepared for the many physical and emotional challenges ahead of her.

After her two-year battle with breast cancer – and overcoming it – she decided to help others with ways to cope with having cancer, creating “Handles of Hope”.

Beach wanted to put together a free bag with vital resources, information, coping tools, and comfort aids to help patients through their cancer journey. She shared her idea with Jann Totzke, executive director of oncology at Lakeland HealthCare’s Marie Yeager Cancer Center. Totzke liked the idea.

Lakeland HealthCare offers cancer patients the services of “Oncology Navigators”. The navigators are specialized registered nurses who link newly diagnosed cancer patients with the resources they need throughout treatment and beyond into survivorship. The Navigators assemble the resource packets in the Handles of Hope bags and distribute the bags through the diagnosing physicians and oncologists.

“Handles of Hope supports our patients from a psycho-social perspective,” stated Totzke.

Each year, Lakeland cares for nearly 800 new cancer patients.

A member service advisor at United Federal Credit Union, Beach approached the UFCU Charity Committee about donating money to purchase the supplies to put the support bags together. The committee unanimously said yes to the cause and donated $4,000 to get the program started.

Beach created a list of the things that helped her when she was going through treatment, which became the contents of Handles of Hope.

Each bag includes:

- A journal, to help release bottled up feelings and emotions in a productive way, plus a pen to help patients write their stories.

-Local and national resource information, a packet with lists of local and national organizations, some that offer 24-hour support through one-on-one peer telephone counselors.

-Meditation CD, piano relaxation

CD, and herbal tea with mug.

-“There is No Place Like Hope”, a book that addresses the emotions and experiences of cancer.

“This book was spot on with everything I felt I was going through,” Beach stated.

One additional item included in the ‘Handles of Hope’ bag is “Eating Well through Cancer”, a cookbook providing the patient with tasty recipes, healthy cooking tips, and specific foods that can help with side effects. The book also allows family and friends to help pre-cook healthy meals in preparation for chemotherapy treatments.

A feedback comment card is also included to find out how helpful the items were for the patients, and a chance for them to suggest ideas on items they would like to see in the bags. “Patients may not need all of the items on their cancer journey, and sometimes their needs change as they progress through treatment, so we want their input on the bags,” Beach said.

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