Leanne Miller: Working to Help Melanoma Patients Throughout Every Phase of Their Journey

Feb 27, 2022

One of programs we strive to maintain thorough excellence in as a facilitator for those dealing with a melanoma diagnosis (from both a patient and caregiver vantage point) is our support groups initiative. It takes a village to ensure that we’ve got ample resource within our network to provide aid to those seeking it, and for those who aren’t yet aware that this type of help exists.

Today, we’d like to point the spotlight at Leanne Miller, who is a social worker in the Massachusetts area who is doing incredible work with cancer patients here in IMPACT Melanoma’s home state. She used to work as the Melanoma Social Worker at Mass General Hospital and has recently opened a private practice specializing in adjustment to illness, which is a major life event that can be confusing and/or frustrating to navigate. Leanne aims to lesson this challenge and is a wonderful resource to local melanoma patients and caregivers looking for therapy in Massachusetts.

We recently sat down with Leanne and asked her a few questions that we hope help in everyone getting to know her a little bit better. Here we go:

Tell us about yourself. What do you do? What got you started in your field?

I work as a licensed independent clinical social worker for my own practice that specializes in adjustment to illness. I previously worked in the melanoma clinic at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Cancer Center, where I fell in love with the melanoma patient and family population. I now work closely with patients and families across all disease groups to navigate adjustment to their diagnosis, treatment, and all things cancer related.

What’s the importance of a melanoma social worker? What should people know about your profession that they may not even know exists? 

A clinical social worker is there to provide counseling to patients and families as they adjust to the news of a melanoma diagnosis. What is unique and valuable about a social worker that specializes in melanoma is that they can appreciate the specific issues that impact people with this specific disease. Some of these issues include a new, complicated relationship with the sun, their community’s overall understanding of melanoma (or lack thereof), the unique form of therapy that is used to treat melanoma, etc.

What do you appreciate about your work? What do you get out of helping patients and caregivers through a tough time?

I learn so much from my patients and their families and have made it my mission to share it with other patients so that they may feel less alone in their specific cancer experience. I continue to be blown away by the strength and resilience of my patients and it is an absolute privilege to be able to work with patients during some of the most vulnerable times of their lives.

What’s the best piece of advice you often give?

This is going to contradict what I said above but I always tell patients to “stay in their cancer.” It can be very easy to get lost on the Internet and send yourself down a rabbit hole of anxiety. I always encourage patients to find the professionals and communities that communicate information in a way that feels most supportive to them.

Can you tell us what you know about IMPACT Melanoma? Have you been involved in the Billy’s Buddies program at all? Working to connect cancer patients and caregivers to their peer group? In your estimation, what’s the importance of that connection?

I am so grateful for IMPACT Melanoma as it is an incredible resource to send patients and families. I also frequent the website to keep myself up to date on the latest programs and events. I utilize the Billy’s Buddies program the most as I have many patients seeking other individuals who have been through similar experiences. I also have patients who have been through treatment who want to give back as a mentor in the Billy’s Buddies program.

Billy’s Buddies has been an amazing resource for so many of my patients who want to connect with other people who have gone through treatment for melanoma. The connection can provide solidarity and hope to a patient who is feeling isolated and alone.

What do you appreciate about their mission and the work you’re doing?

I really appreciate the education around prevention and sun protection. This is something that I didn’t know much about prior to my role in the melanoma clinic. I’ve incorporated this education into my work as well as my personal life. My friends and family are not allowed to be reckless when it comes to sun safety.

How can people find you? When should they seek your services? What’s the overall process like? 

As mentioned above, patients will often get in touch with me when they are having trouble coping with the news of their diagnosis, navigating treatment side effects, or overall fear of recurrence. I can meet with patients and their families at any point of their cancer experience. Patients can view my practice’s website at https://leanne-miller4927.clientsecure.me/ and contact me directly at millerlcounseling@gmail.com or (781) 561-0056. My practice is currently entirely virtual, which allows me to reach people across the entire state of Massachusetts and my patients find it very convenient to fit counseling sessions into their everyday lives.

For further information on IMPACT Melanoma’s support groups, click here.

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