Baylor College of Medicine recently received funds from the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund (OCRF) to provide further support to gynecologic cancer patients through The Woman To Woman Program, where recently diagnosed women can get help and support from other gynecologic cancer survivors.
OCRF’s $50,000 grant was given to BCM researchers Marian Yvette Williams-Brown and Celestine Tung, both assistant professors of obstetrics and gynecology, to start and supervise the program at Baylor clinics at the Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women and Harris Health System’s Smith Clinic.
The program, already established in some other regions of the country, is free for patients and goes beyond simply providing patients and survivors random, open-agenda support meetings, since the program is coordinated by a professional, usually a medical social worker, who trains volunteers before they meet the patients and provides them with hands-on information and support.
As for the Survivor Volunteer Mentoring Woman to Woman volunteers, they give new patients much-needed emotional support through all the phases of the treatment process, with the goal of encouraging and empowering women who have a cancer diagnosis.
To Williams-Brown, this program offers an effective extension of cancer treatment to patients. “Physicians can explain a diagnosis in great detail, but this doesn’t compare to hearing the testimony from a patient who has actually experienced it.”
This view is shared by many of the program patients and/or volunteers who are already settled and working in other U.S locations. “Twenty years ago when I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, I had to scramble around to find other survivors at a time when I had little energy. (…) Words cannot describe the helpfulness and hopefulness of speaking to other survivors,” said Robin Z., from New York on the program’s website.
Woman to Woman was brought to light by ovarian cancer survivor Valerie Goldfein in collaboration with the Mount Sinai Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences and the Mount Sinai Department of Social Work, in New York. Her fearful and lone experience after her diagnosis led her to try to find a way of alleviating those feelings for other women.