Mercy Medical Center will launch a support group for anyone whose life has been touched by cancer.
Medical officials say they are trying to provide a place where people can go for support, education and networking. They want to look at all aspects of cancer.
"How treatments affect your overall body," explained Lillian Sanchez, community educator at Mercy.
The support group will meet from 4 to 5:30 p.m. on the last Wednesday of the month. Mercy hopes to begin the program March 27, Sanchez said.
Three oncologists will rotate to make presentations to group members on topics such as therapy treatments, managing side effects and emotions, nutrition and survivorship.
There's no cost to participate in the group.
Also, people can participate even if they don't have cancer or they're not receiving treatment at the Mercy Cancer Center, Sanchez said. For example, participants might be family members of someone suffering from cancer.
"Cancer is something that affects everyone," Sanchez said.
She said some local cancer patients, for many reasons, have to travel outside the area for their treatments, but Mercy wanted to provide a place for them in this community for resources, support and other assistance.
"The need is there," she said. "I think it will help them get through their treatment."
The group will provide support for caregivers and help them prepare for the end of life of a loved one, Sanchez said. "A lot of the times when they reach the (cancer) center, it's really advanced," Sanchez said.
This support group is Mercy's second program to look at cancer patients as a whole, as opposed to just treating their disease, Sanchez said.
The hospital's first effort was the Look Good, Feel Better program, where female cancer patients learn how to apply makeup and use accessories to boost self-esteem. "That's been very successful," Sanchez said.
A representative at El Portal Cancer Institute in Merced said that it doesn't offer support groups at this point, but hopes to in the future.
The Central Valley Cancer Center in Merced also doesn't offer support groups, but a receptionist said the center refers patients to the American Cancer Society.
Representatives at El Portal Comprehensive Cancer Center didn't return a call seeking comment.
Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 385-2482 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The cancer support group will meet at the Mercy Cancer Center, 3850 G St. It's free, but people need to register before the meeting by calling the center at (209) 564-3600. For more information, call (209) 564-4310.