North Mississippi Medical Center revamps cancer patient support group to reach more people

TUPELO, Miss. (WCBI) – Cancer Care at Northern Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo is working to revamp its support group for cancer patients.

Known as Cancer Journey, the group is open to current patients, family members, caregivers and cancer survivors.

“Some of the patients who come to this support group are at the end of life, and it helps to share that with each other and have a friend go with them,” says oncology social worker Jamie Grissom.

Staff at North Mississippi Medical Center’s cancer department want to make sure their patients don’t feel alone.

“Cancer patients often have excellent support systems,” says Grissom. “With their family members, with the church family, but sometimes they also didn’t feel like sharing more difficult feelings with family members. They want to be strong for them.

Grissom and fellow oncology social worker Lauren Thompson oversee the support group so patients have a space to share their feelings of stress, anxiety or depression.

“They’re actually helping each other on this journey because they’re all learning together,” Grissom says. “And they are able to share what they are going through and their experiences.”

The group meets the third Tuesday of the month at the Cancer Center from 2-3:30 p.m. The next meeting, September 20, will be tailgate themed to encourage new members to attend. Patients are encouraged to wear jerseys or other gear from their favorite teams and will be able to play games and share a meal.

“While we want to incorporate getting to know each other and make this (meeting) lighter, we still want to be able to talk to this group about different things that are on our patients’ minds,” Thompson said.

Thompson says they are looking to spread the word to help rebuild the group after COVID-19 put their meetings on hold.

“We’ve lost some of our members coming in, and that’s exactly how it’s worked with COVID,” she says. “So we’re trying to rebuild what we had before COVID and get more people involved.”

In addition to hearing patients talk there are other ways the support group can help.

“We can’t decide for ourselves how to help someone,” says Thompson. “We need to know what they are up against, what they are feeling. We need to hear from our patients or we’re not doing them justice.

Grissom says one of the things they emphasize in group meetings is the importance of expressing your feelings, even if it’s just on paper.

She says they provide patients with diaries where they can write down what they are going through if they don’t feel like sharing out loud.