Online breast cancer support program at a Montreal hospital has had some unexpected benefits

With a year off work and time with her family, Brandi Lee Hicks was living her life to the fullest last year. However, all of that came to a halt when her doctor told her she had breast cancer.

“I didn’t think cancer was the issue.” she said. “so I was a little bit in denial at first.”

One in eight Canadian women will get breast cancer, and the MUHC (McGill University Health Centre) foundation has support programs at the hospital’s breast clinic in order to help patients deal with their anxiety.

One of the programs is dedicated to women that have been newly diagnosed.

Trying to organize all her consultations and treatments, Hicks began to feel overwhelmed.

“I broke down I remember I was going through the calendar and I couldn’t. I had to take it one day at a time, one treatment at a time. I couldn’t look at the bigger picture.” said Hicks.

Living an hour away from Montreal, Hicks new schedule involved both chemo and radiation therapy. She also had to undergo a full mastectomy.

The support programs funded by the MUHC give the patients options to see psychologists, sex therapists, nutritionists and various other specialists.

However, when the pandemic hit, adjustments needed to be made by the clinic.

Sophie Blondin a patient support coordinator highlighted the importance of everyone staying home at the beginning of the pandemic especially cancer patients due to them being more at risk than the average person.

Blondin decided to make non-medical appointments available through Zoom, allowing her to coach patients and give the opportunity for patients to talk with one another.

“When you’re in treatment or post-op you don’t have the energy to get up and get dressed, drive or take the metro, drive get stuck in traffic.” said Blondin. “So because of that we were able to reach more patients actually.”

The Zoom sessions made it easier for Hicks and her family as well.

The online sessions have been extremely successful and the online option will now be available to patients permanently.

Hicks has now finished her treatment and received good news from her oncologist.

“He told me I was medically boring and that was the best news ever.” said Hicks.

Hicks will follow up with the after cancer care program.

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