In the inaugural episode of our new podcast series “Connecting the Community,” Affinity Senior Care CEO, Chris Zayid, speaks with Jennifer Nagy and Megan Landry from the American Cancer Society.
In this episode, Chris and his esteemed guests discuss:
- Tips on preventing cancer in senior adults.
- Keyways to support someone in the community, facing cancer.
- How to support a caregiver taking care of a cancer patient.
- Caregiver support groups you can access.
- Best way to support someone who has received a cancer diagnosis.
Watch the full podcast above or read the transcript below. The transcript has been edited for brevity.
Chris: We are excited to do our podcast today with special guests. We have Megan Landry and Jennifer Nagy here today from the American Cancer Society. Welcome!
Megan: Thank you!
Chris: Jennifer, please introduce yourself to everybody and a little bit of background with American Cancer Society.
Jennifer: Sure, I’m a Strategic Partnership Manager with American Cancer Society. Been with them for about over 24 years and I’m also a cervical cancer survivor and a caretaker to my mom who is a breast cancer survivor and then my niece and nephew as well.
Chris: It’s amazing, and you and I, we’ve known each other for a good few years.
Jennifer: We sure have.
Chris: We developed a great relationship while working on the Real Men Wear Pink campaign. It’s been such an honor working with you.
Megan, we’d love you to introduce yourself, tell us a little about yourself and your background.
Megan: Sure. So, I am the Senior Manager for our Cancer Support Team here in Michigan, Jen and I work together. I’ve been at ACS for almost nine years, and I also have been touched by cancer like most people. My dad had lung cancer, he was not a smoker, he was a really healthy guy and he passed away a couple of years ago. So, he’s my why. We all have our why.
Chris: We are blessed to have you here and I saw you connect with a lot of people in our community with that experience. We all have a purpose and it’s so important to do anything with a purpose.
Well thank you for sharing your story, and spending time with us here on our podcast show.
Today I want to talk about what are the ways in which you feel a senior community member, as you know we specialize in seniors care, can prevent various forms of cancer?
Jennifer: Sure! I think the biggest and the most important message that we really want to make sure seniors hear from us is, one, have a doctor, have a physician who is knowledgeable about your information and your history. But also, healthy eating, exercise, diet, looking at all those kinds of lifestyle changes that an individual can make at any age really, and then making sure that they’re looking at those avenues to prevent cancer.
Chris: Megan what’s your Insight about that, what kind of tips can you give us about preventing cancer in seniors within the senior community.
Megan: Jen really summarized it, but I want to just stress the importance of having that relationship with a primary care doctor. So much of Health Care is individualized and you have to talk to your doctor about what makes sense for you as far as cancer screening and cancer prevention.
Knowing your family history is also so important, if you’ve had cancer in your family just to kind of take that into consideration as far as when to get screened and also pass that knowledge on to the younger generations in your family.
Chris: It’s important to have a good relationship with your physician. Best thing we can do is catch anything early and be preventative about it, and never be fearful of having a connection with your physician. It can save many years of your life.
What aspects are important, would you say for people over 65 years old, especially if they are going through cancer? For example, exercise and diet – is this something that ASC promotes?
Megan: Yeah, we talk a lot about nutrition and physical activity at any age and also tobacco cessation at any age, don’t go out in the sun too long. Those are all really important ways both for prevention and if you already have cancer or are going through cancer it’s still important to keep up with that physical activity as much as you can. It’s going to be different for everybody and on nutrition we have guides on how to eat healthy while you grow through improvement, different recipes, and things like that.
Jennifer: And the second thing is that knowing that the American Cancer Society is a resource for you, and you can call us anytime to get information. So, if you’re even looking for information or tips on healthy eating or recipes, those are all available at the American Cancer Center that you can access for free and that’s available anytime by calling us or getting on our website.
Chris: And your website is?
Chris: Cancer.org. I just wanted to make sure, and we’ll add the link on our show and in the description box.
Also, self-care is really important and having that connection with family and friends is so essential and having full out integrated Wellness is really important. I know that with the American Cancer Society if you go to your resource pages, you provide so many resources for individuals to be able to reach out to, and a lot of them are free. They can go in-person, call or contact them, or read and find a lot of information online.
What are some keyways to support someone in the community, facing cancer?
Jennifer: If I elaborated my own experience of when I was a Survivor, what was important to me was knowing that I had my family and friend base around me, also knowing that I had the information and resources at my fingertips – whether it is by calling the American Cancer Society or navigating their website. I was able to even identify with a cancer survivor that was not even in the area of my own home, but I was able to even connect with that individual across the nation.
Having those resources at your fingertips I think is what’s most important.
Chris: Megan what’s your Insight on that?
Megan: There’s so many ways you can support somebody going through cancer, as their friend, neighbor, or a family member. Every person is going to be different. Some people like to be called a Survivor, some people don’t, so it’s really having that personal conversation with the person diagnosed with cancer and asking what kind of support you need. Do you need me to drop off meals for you, do you need me to drive you to your treatment, do you want me to give you the information and resources that I have.
I think it’s having that conversation about what it looks like for each person.
Chris: You said transportation, that’s one thing in home care. We deal with that, we see meals preparation, grocery, nutrition is going to be important.
Someone may say, “I am fatigued, I’m tired, I can’t get out of the house, it’s very difficult, my spouse is working, I can’t always get all the stuff.” But you guys also offer these support. You have tons of volunteers as part of your organization. It could also be a very cost-effective way utilizing your resources because there’s some free volunteers out there who are willing to put in their time.
Jennifer: Absolutely! We’re a volunteer driven organization and so we need the volunteers – whether it’s for transportation or for advocating at the state capital with us on policy issues, we need those people to be surrounding us.
Chris: Right, so you are always actively looking for volunteers.
The next thing I want to ask is how can you support a caregiver taking care of a cancer patient? It could be a family member, a relative, or a spouse.
Megan: I’m so glad you asked that because I do feel like sometimes the caregiver gets forgotten in the cancer Journey. ACS has resources for caregivers, we have a caregiver resource guide, we have videos on our website that are specifically targeted towards caregivers and at all of our events we try to highlight the caregivers and thank them because they’re walking through the Journey too. But I also want to take a minute to just recognize that people listening to this can also maybe reach out to the caregiver of the person who has cancer and just say, “how can I support you; I know this is hard on you too!” and really help that caregiver through this journey as well.
Chris: Caregiver burnout is real. We see it all the time. Our employees go through it, our families go through it. It is important to understand that if you or a family member has put on the role of a caregiver, check on them, because it’s not an easy role.
Jennifer: Just to add to that, Megan had mentioned the video series and I think what’s important about the video series is, there is a whole component on self-care. It’s self-care of the individual, the caregiver, beyond being the caregiver to the patient and learning the resources for the patient, whether it’s drainage or side effects or dealing with those kinds of obstacles or challenges. There really is a segment on self-care and health and healing for your own individual self.
Chris: Another question I have is are there other hospitals or senior centers or activities that caregivers can go to, to keep them active, especially if you are not the patient, you don’t want to be home all day.
Megan: One of the things that Jen and I get to do is work with our local hospitals and most of the hospitals have support groups. Now with Covid everything looks different, so I can’t guarantee if every hospital has in-person support groups or in-person activities. But so many of them will do cooking classes or yoga or exercise classes, really cater towards cancer survivors and caregivers. It’s really great that they can offer that.
Jennifer: If you call the American Cancer Society and you’re looking for those kinds of resources, that’s what’s available to you, specifically Gilda’s Club or the Cancer Support Community right in your backyard. You may not know that but if you call us, we can connect you to them.
Chris: And support groups too?
Megan: Yes. Gilda’s Club is really great. And Cancer Support Community – they have support groups for every type of cancer, they have Young Adult Support Groups, they have Caregiver Support Groups. We refer out to those.
Chris: What’s the landscape of these groups? Do they walk in and they’re with 10 individuals who are going through the same thing they do, and they can actually talk?
Megan: Yes, and sometimes it might be virtual like over Zoom, but Gilda’s Club I think is getting back to meeting in-person. So yeah, you just walk in, and you can share as much or as little as you want to. I’ve been part of support groups before and you don’t have to talk, you can just listen, or you can go there to open up and get support from your peers.
Chris: That’s really great. You don’t have to walk through this process alone. That’s the main goal. I love that.
What would you recommend is the best way to support someone who has just received the news of their cancer diagnosis?
Jennifer: First thing, just breathe, and then know that you can call the American Cancer Society. I think that’s the first thing I would say, beyond working with your family and your friends and kind of having that conversation with them, I think reaching out to us to get treatment information, to understand their surgery, to understand options, nutrition, you name it, it’s all there for you. You are not alone in that process at all. You can get whatever you need when it comes to information from the American Cancer Society.
Chris: Will someone from ASC actually go out to the patient’s home?
Megan: No, we don’t do that, we refer out to organizations that could, we can give you resources for the organizations that do. But we have a 24/7 phone number that people can call, it’s a national phone number, it’s not just Michigan, so at three in the morning if you have a question about your diagnosis or have a question about anything really related to cancer you can call and somebody, a live person will answer the phone.
Chris: Are there any other resources that we should highlight that you have on your site to help?
Jennifer: The capability that we now have, we offer chat capability, and you can sign up for an appointment to do something chat wise. Knowing that the world has changed a little bit with covid and that you might just want to have an interaction with a person even if it’s virtually, we have that capability. Know that there’s this resource out there that can guide you through your cancer treatment or preventative information, so if you even want to quit smoking, you could call the American Cancer Society and get information on clean smoking.
Chris: That’s wonderful! Thank you so much for spending time with me. It’s a pleasure and an honor to be working with you and ASC, yet another year on the Real Men Wear Pink campaign.
Thank you so much for being a part of this podcast and I hope that if anybody has questions or going through something that has to do with breast cancer, they can reach out to Megan and Jennifer. They’re always available in our community.
Jennifer: Thank you Chris for what you do as well. On behalf of the 16 million cancer survivors that are out there, you are making a huge impact with us. So, thank you for that.
Megan: Thank you.
Connecting the Community with Chris is on a mission to bring together local expertise with insights into critical topics relevant to the extended senior community, boosting overall well-being, elevating the quality of life, and providing everyone with a sense of belonging.