Support

We are committed to supporting melanoma patients, their families, and caregivers.

Impact Melanoma Support Services
We are committed to supporting melanoma patients, their families, and caregivers.

Support is offered in many ways including information for those just diagnosed, our Billy’s Buddies program for a melanoma patient to be paired with a buddy – a volunteer who has gone through treatment for melanoma and wants to help others – as well as support groups for patients, family members, and caregivers. For additional emotional support, we share Inspirational Stories of melanoma survivors.

Interested in volunteering to offer support to melanoma patients?

Just Diagnosed with Melanoma

Just diagnosed with melanoma
A melanoma diagnosis can be a trying and vulnerable time in a person’s life. At IMPACT Melanoma, we are here to help those just diagnosed with melanoma with useful information, getting a buddy and/or joining a support group.

Information gathering, ranging from the emotional impact to questions to ask about treatment options and discussions to have with your family, can be an important and useful step soon after receiving a melanoma diagnosis.

Information Gathering

Everyone’s emotional reaction to a melanoma diagnosis is different. Information gathering can be a useful step in processing the diagnosis and taking next steps.

As you struggle with issues related to the diagnosis and treatment, you may also face the social pressures that can even come from well-meaning friends who want more than anything for you to be OK.

Information Gathering

Psychologists who work with cancer patients have found a pattern of responses that is characteristic of a healthy adjustment.

The three phases are:

  1. Initial response – usually shock and disbelief.
  2. Distress – a period that may be characterized by anxiety and/or depression.
  3. Adjustment – the phase that typically includes learning more about your options and treatment plan.

These three phases take you through the normal grieving process which is important to experience.

If you have recently been diagnosed with melanoma, this video from Castle Biosciences about DecisionDx-Melanoma might be of interest to you.

You may experience persistent sadness, in addition to:

  • Anxiety or depression
  • Decreased sexual interest
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, and making decisions
  • Insomnia or oversleeping
  • Weight or appetite loss
  • Restlessness and/or irritability

Normally, many of these symptoms would be considered unhealthy, but for a person with a new melanoma diagnosis they are a normal part of the process of dealing with this new reality. However, feelings of hopelessness and guilt are signs that should be considered indicators of more serious distress.

Coping with Anxiety

Anxiety

A melanoma diagnosis is extremely stressful. Here are some tips to help you cope with anxiety:

  • Many people find that gaining more knowledge about their disease actually helps to alleviate anxiety. Seek information through your physician, the patient education center at the hospital, your local library, and from melanoma online information and support tools.
  • Take control of the things that you have control over, eat a healthy diet, get some exercise, and connect with loved ones.

We encourage you to join one of our melanoma support groups and/or get a buddy via our patient advocacy and support program, Billy’s Buddies.

Guilt

Labels about melanoma can lead to guilt, which can be a huge burden for newly diagnosed patients. You may feel guilty about causing your melanoma, about having your family go through it, or about not being able to do what you did before, even if it is only for a short period of time. It’s not unusual to try to find an answer to why your melanoma developed, but focusing on the cause can lead to additional stress. It doesn’t do any good to look back. You have the capacity to stop blaming and judging yourself by realizing you cannot change the past and must focus on moving forward. Guilt can be a barrier to living your life fully, which is why experts recommend talking through these feelings with a helping professional or support group.
Guilt

Depression

Depression
Studies show that nearly a quarter of all cancer patients will have symptoms of depression or an anxiety disorder during treatment. However, feelings of anger or sadness about your melanoma and the changes it brings are normal and may help you cope. Persistent feelings of helplessness or hopelessness and a sense of worthlessness are not typical, and you should notify your doctor.

When diagnosing depression in cancer patients, physicians place more emphasis on symptoms such as loss of pleasure, hope, and self-worth that last for more than two weeks instead of side effects that can also be caused by cancer and its treatments including fatigue and weight loss. In addition, some therapies are associated with mood disturbances.

According to the National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines, patients with a high level of anxiety or depression should consider talking with a mental health professional who can more adequately assess what type of treatment is warranted. Remember, depression is a treatable condition. It’s an illness just like melanoma, so don’t be afraid to get the help you need.

Questions to Ask About Treatment Options

Before choosing the best treatment for you, it’s important to understand the expected benefits, side effects, and risks of each option. Take written questions with you to each appointment and someone who can take notes for you. The following questions will get you started:

  1. What is the goal of treatment for my melanoma?
  2. What are the chances that the treatment will work?
  3. After treatment, will I be cured, in remission, or relieved of my symptoms?
  4. Are there other ways to achieve the same goal?
  5. How will I know if the treatment is working?
  6. If the treatment does not work, are there other options for me?
  7. What are the potential risks and side effects of the treatment I will receive? How do side effects of this treatment compare with the side effects of other treatments?
  8. How will I receive therapy, how often, and for how long?
  9. Will my diet be restricted in any way? My activities? My work? Exercise? Sexual activity?
  10. Are there any clinical trials I could take part in?
  11. How much will my treatment cost? Will it be covered by my insurance or health plan?
  12. If the insurance company requests a second opinion or I would like one, whom do you suggest that I see?

Talking with Family About Melanoma

Talking with Family about Melanoma
It won’t be an easy discussion, but now that you have been diagnosed with melanoma, your family members need to hear about protecting and examining their skin.

Your diagnosis means that your parents, siblings and children are 2 – 8 times more at risk than the rest of the population.

It’s estimated that up to a million Americans have a melanoma risk directly related to family history. But at least half of these at-risk family members have never had a skin cancer examination by a dermatologist.

Because of your diagnosis, you can be a powerful messenger within your family. Studies consistently show that family education leads to earlier detection of many cancers – including melanoma.

If there are pre-teens and teenagers in your family, it is critical to emphasize the importance of avoiding UV exposure, including tanning beds, to reduce risk. Though pre-teens and teens are influenced by what their friends do, your teachings will have a positive impact.

Encourage your family members to:
  • Get a Full Skin Exam Annually
  • Examine Their Skin Once a Month
  • Always Stay Safe in the Sun
Billy's Buddies
Billy's Buddies

Coping with Melanoma is difficult; with IMPACT Melanoma’s Billy’s Buddies, you do not have to go through it alone.

Billy’s Buddies is our support program that pairs a melanoma patient with a volunteer who has also been diagnosed with melanoma and has completed treatment.

Learn More

Billy’s Buddies is available to melanoma patients and caregivers as a one-on-one support program. Efforts are made to pair you with a volunteer having a similar situation, age, melanoma stage, and other factors to make this buddy program an important and supportive connection.

Our Inspiration

Throughout his short but vibrant life, Bill Walls was everybody’s buddy — with a love for the outdoors, an infectious smile, and brilliant eyes, Bill’s kindness was remarkable. Despite a fierce struggle with melanoma, Bill kept his spirits high, his faith deep, and his buddies close. His trust in and compassion for others created a network of buddies that was there for Bill in his darkest days. Bill’s family, friends, co-workers, and the strangers he had touched scheduled appointments, tracked down medical records, researched clinical trials, and provided care for his 18-month-old twins.

Such incredible support left Bill and his wife Amy feeling empowered to face each day with courage and confidence. This young and loving couple with so much support and so many resources often wondered how others without buddies would find the strength to fight. On a wintry night just weeks before he died, a normally passive Bill clearly and passionately expressed his wish for others affected by melanoma to always have a buddy.

Request a Buddy

Melanoma patients are encouraged to get a buddy; to have someone who can relate to what you are going through and be with you as a buddy for as long as there is benefit in the relationship. Buddies are volunteers and while IMPACT Melanoma trains the buddies, they are not clinicians. They are buddies to offer support, empathy, and to lean on. We work with you as a patient to identify a buddy who will connect best with you, whether that be the stage of melanoma, your age, similar treatment, etc.

Volunteer as a Billy's Buddy

Looking to Volunteer? Become a Buddy.

A buddy’s primary role is to provide active listening and support via email or phone to a melanoma patient currently in treatment or to a caregiver of a melanoma patient. All buddies are volunteers, seeking to help a melanoma patient during their journey. IMPACT Melanoma trains volunteer buddies to provide peer support to patients newly diagnosed with melanoma or with recurrent disease. Some buddies stay connected for a long time while others connect for as long as beneficial for the patient.

Requirements to volunteer as a buddy:

  • Interested applicants must be willing to commit to serving as a Volunteer Buddy for at least two hours per month for one year.
  • Must be a melanoma survivor and/or a caregiver of someone with melanoma.
  • If you are a melanoma survivor, you must apply to be a buddy no sooner than 6 months after completing your treatment.

Support Groups

Support Groups
IMPACT Melanoma recognizes the strength that group settings can have when people come together with others who have a melanoma diagnosis to share sensitive feelings and concerns about their illness. It can help to talk to others who have faced the same diagnosis. We offer support groups for patients and caregivers to address fears and uncertainty, increase opportunities to talk with others who share a melanoma diagnosis, and enhance knowledge of melanoma and treatment options. In this group setting people have found they can identify coping strategies to address the emotional challenges that people may experience when diagnosed with cancer. The term ‘caregiver’ is defined as a loved one who is directly affected by someone in their life who has a melanoma diagnosis.

Our support groups offer a safe and confidential space for both patients and caregivers. They are facilitated by experienced clinical social workers who have vast knowledge about how melanoma can impact patients and caregivers in various ways. Patients both in active treatment and out of treatment are welcome to attend our support groups. Some patients may feel the need to connect at the beginning of their melanoma journey while others feel the need for support once treatment is completed and they are no longer followed as closely by their medical team. Sometimes it is easier to talk about having melanoma with others who share a melanoma diagnosis than it is with a partner or family/friends.

All support groups offered through IMPACT melanoma are free of charge and are available in multiple locations, including virtual groups for those who may not be able to attend an in-person group or prefer to connect virtually.

Support Group Details

Please pre-register prior to attending your first support group by contacting the group facilitator listed below.

For the safety and convenience of patients and support group leaders, all groups are virtual.

PATIENTS:

MASSACHUSETTS

Worcester
378 Plantation Street
Worcester, MA
Facilitator: Kathy Manfield, LICSW
800-557-6352
Fourth Monday of the month, 7:00pm ET

Beverly Hospital – A Member of Lahey Health
Please call for more information and to register.
Beverly MA
Facilitator: Kelli Braga, LICSW
978-254-1533
Second Thursday of the month, 6:00pm ET

VIRTUAL SUPPORT GROUP
Open to all patients regardless of where they seek treatment
Facilitator: Kelli Braga, LICSW
978-254-1533
First Monday of the month at 12:30pm ET
Please call for more information and to register

 

CAREGIVERS:

VIRTUAL SUPPORT GROUP
Facilitator: Kelli Braga, LICSW
978-253-1533
Second Monday of the month, 12:30pm EST

Additional Emotional Support

Throughout the journey as a melanoma patient, survivor, or caregiver, stories can be a source of comfort. We capture the inspirational stories of melanoma survivors and honor the memories of those who have passed on our Wall of Hope.

INSPIRATIONAL STORIES

Are you a Survivor?

  • Reset

Wall of Hope

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