Spine tumor support group: Who we are

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120801Gisela.JPGBy Gisela Sanchez-Williams, advanced practice nurse, Department of Neurosurgery

The Spine Tumor Support Group at MD Anderson is a unique entity. It strives to educate individuals in a compassionate, professional-led group setting, regarding their disease process and quality of life.

In a support group, members provide each other with various types of help, such as:

  • providing and evaluating relevant information,
  • relating personal experiences,
  • listening to and accepting others' experiences,
  • providing sympathetic understanding and
  • establishing social networks.
A support group may also work to inform the public or engage in advocacy.

The MD Anderson Spine Tumor Support Group is all of the above and more. Using a holistic approach to care, group discussion is facilitated by a nurse practitioner who has expertise in neurosurgery and provides care to spine tumor patients.

Knowledge is power
Individuals and caregivers share their cancer journey, fears, disappointments, frustrations and victories in the Spine Tumor Support Group.

With compassion, comfort and consideration of each individual's unique situation, emphasis is given to developing a new norm -- learning how to cope, function and manage with the physical and psychological changes caused by the disease.

Many ask how attending this support group will impact what they're going through.

We believe knowledge is power. We strive to educate patients and families about the disease, arming them with the ability to enhance their quality of life and to live to their fullest potential.

In the support group people with rare and complex tumors are united and the sense of isolation is diminished. Hope is cultivated and reality is confronted with empathy and grace.

The facilitator serves as a guide. The power of the exchange comes from those who attend.

While what is shared in the group is confidential and privacy is always maintained, the exchange provides an environment where concerns regarding patients' care, medical and psychosocial aspects can be explored further.

The group discussion can often bring to attention medical or psychosocial issues that may not have otherwise been shared and may also be experienced by other spine tumor patients. Through this exchange, we are able to tailor our care to patients' specific needs.

The Third Annual Spine Tumor Patient Education Conference on Aug. 29 is an extension of this support group. The purpose of the conference is to better educate patients and provide information that will positively impact their cancer journey.

For more information on the Spine Tumor Patient Education Conference or to register, contact Gisela Sanchez-Williams at 713-563-8710.

The Spine Tumor Support Group meets the first Wednesday of every month, 5-7pm, in the Integrative Medicine Center, Mays Clinic, Room 2.1041.

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