BIDMC Cancer Community

Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work

JUNE 22, 2018

How to Connect with Others Whose Lives Are Touched by Cancer


One of the wonderful things about BIDMC is our long-standing commitment to care for the whole patient. Hopefully, no one is ever seen here as "the ovarian cancer in chair 8" but, rather, as Ms. X who is 55, married, has young adult children, works as a librarian and is excited about her daughter's wedding this summer. We know that cancer, or any other illness or medical problem, does not happen in a vacuum, but happens to someone who already has a life. For some of our patients, it can seem that cancer happens in the middle of a life that is already too full of problems and worries, and a serious medical diagnosis is one more heavy burden.

Over the course of my career here, I have been devoted to trying to develop a sense of community, to connect our patients with one another, to reduce the inevitable sense of isolation and being different that cancer brings. One wonderful relatively new resource is our online cancer support program, the BIDMC Cancer Community, which can be found at Open to anyone, it is free and simple to join. Just click on the link to sign up, pick a username that can be real or totally anonymous. I am a huge fan of support groups and have facilitated several each week here at the hospital. I do know that getting here can be difficult, and that the need of support and connection can arise at any hour. Hence, this new program.

I was especially excited about this because of my past experience working for, a pioneer in the online medical space for patients. I managed their breast cancer support, and it was a wonderful opportunity to know and support women all over the world who were dealing with breast cancer. It was wonderful to rediscover how much we have in common with our cancer sisters on the other side of the planet. After this company changed and reduced their goals, I was asked to begin writing this blog for the hospital. 

The BIDMC Cancer Community welcomes anyone with cancer, their friends and their family members. The straight-forward website is always open and is a great place to share information, ask questions and  discuss experiences and feelings. There are several BIDMC-facilitated groups (I manage the Living with Cancer and the Breast Cancer ones), but joining also enables you to connect with 49 additional national cancer groups. This means that there is almost certainly a group designed for people with your kind of cancer. Look for the list on the right side of the home page and scroll down

Recent conversations in the breast and ovarian cancer groups have been about tattoos, natural lubricants, cancer progression, preparing for chemotherapy. There really is something for everyone, and I strongly suggest that you check this out.

I'll see you online.


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