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Mercy Health Oncology Social Workers

Helping Patients Cope with the Emotional Side of Cancer

When a woman is told she has breast cancer, it can be an emotional, scary experience. Alina Chourrot, oncology clinical social worker, has a passion for helping women in the midst of these types of life-changing circumstances.

Chourrot is one of four social workers employed at Mercy Health Lacks Cancer Center. Oncology Social Workers at Mercy Health Lacks Cancer Center are Master's-level social workers certified in cancer care. They are an important part of the multidisciplinary cancer team, assisting patients and their families with the emotional and nonmedical aspects of cancer care throughout their cancer journey.

"Cancer has a way of changing people's lives," explains Chourrot. "We are here to validate their concerns and help normalize this process for them."

Women with a recent diagnosis of breast cancer have many questions and decisions to consider. Chourrot shares coping strategies and helps manage the many components of care by linking them to a wide variety of local resources including transportation, support groups, and housing. Sometimes, she will step in as an advocate when asked, to help the patient and medical professional better communicate.

She also helps patients with answers to tough questions, such as How do I tell my children I have cancer?

"We address developmental-appropriate ways to help families explain cancer to their children and their families as well as how to support them," explains Chourrot.

She can also connect patients with the resources available right inside Mercy Health Lacks Cancer Center, West Michigan's only dedicated cancer hospital.

"We have financial navigators who can assist patients through the financial and insurance concerns they have," says Chourrot. "We also house the Warren Reynolds Library, the largest public cancer resource library in Michigan, which is open to the public. And when we talk about body image and hair loss during cancer treatment, I can direct them right down the hall to our Personal Care Area, where women can receive wig fittings, bra fittings, breast forms, complimentary cosmetology services, and skin care products designed for cancer patients." A video about Mercy Health Lacks Cancer Center highlights these and other resources for new patients.

Chourrot stresses that it's OK to seek support from an oncology social worker.

"We help normal people experiencing abnormal circumstances," she explains. "And what a new or recurring cancer patient is experiencing is a normal response to an abnormal situation. The support we offer is encouraging, hopeful, and truthful."

For more information about Mercy Health Comprehensive Breast Centers, visit www.MercyHealthBreastCare.com.

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