For the media

Cancer care for the body and mind

By Cheryl Fogel | September 22, 2023
Cheryl Fogel of San Diego at Sharp Memorial Hospital

Cheryl Fogel is a clinical social worker at Sharp Memorial Hospital and understands the importance of cancer treatment focusing on the individual as a whole.

Cheryl Fogel, MSW, LCSW, is a clinical medical social worker with a certification in oncology at the Laurel Amtower Cancer Institute and Neuro-Oncology Center at Sharp Memorial Hospital.

The essay was published first in the San Diego Union-Tribune on Sept. 3, 2023.

At the Cancer Centers of Sharp HealthCare, we understand that cancer may be one of the most difficult challenges a patient and their loved ones will ever face. This is why we are dedicated to helping ease the burden of a cancer diagnosis, so our patients can focus on healing.

However, like most chronic illnesses, cancer does not happen within a bubble. It affects not only an individual’s physical health but also their mental health, lifestyle, family members, work and school obligations, daily activities and far more. And in turn, these very things can affect how an individual uniquely responds to a cancer diagnosis and treatment.

It’s not uncommon for people living with cancer to experience a range of emotions — feelings of isolation, loneliness, anger, sadness, fear and grief — which can interfere with their daily life, treatment and recovery. This is why it’s so vital to treat the whole individual.

Preparing patients for their journey to recovery

Of course, chemotherapy, radiation, surgery and other clinical interventions are crucial to a person’s recovery. But the journey to recovery becomes far less complex when a person has support; feels emotionally strong; and has the tools to cope with the challenges that may arise upon receiving a cancer diagnosis, during treatment and throughout survivorship.

Take, for example, a patient who has lost a family member to cancer. Their response to their own cancer diagnosis may be one of immediate fear and devastation. “If my loved one died from this,” they may think, “I will too.” But that is far from a given. Many cancers are now treatable when detected early.

Yet, in order to embark on the journey to healing, we need to help the patient understand their fear and anxiety; encourage them to recognize whether or not they fully grieved that earlier loss; and work with them to develop the tools to cope with the trauma and feelings of loss surrounding their own cancer journey.

Whatever a patient’s challenges, we must help get them in the space where they can process their diagnosis, receive their treatment, and keep moving through it all. And we must help them to do this while living as full a life as they can, however that may look for them.

Providing care beyond the expected

Many hospitals and cancer centers provide quality cancer care. Some even provide the complementary services we do, such as support groups and classes; acupuncture; healing touch; yoga; and art, pet and music therapy. But at Sharp, we go beyond general cancer care and support services to ensure our patients are prepared to cope with the challenges ahead by providing clinical counseling to patients and their loved ones from diagnosis to survivorship. And we provide this to our patients at no cost.

We do this because we understand that the stress of this diagnosis impacts our patients and their lives in so many ways. A cancer diagnosis can and often does change one’s view of everything in their world.

This is just one of the ways we combine the science of medicine with the art of caring. We strive to exceed the expectations of every patient by treating them — mind, body and soul — with the utmost care, compassion and respect. It's what we call The Sharp Experience.

So when a doctor, nurse or patient navigator reaches out to our team of licensed clinical social workers with specialty training in oncology about a patient in need of our support, we step in. Addressing issues in a patient’s unique situation; identifying barriers that might hinder their ability to cope with their cancer treatments; and using a variety of mental health therapy modalities based on the patient’s individual needs allows us to help get them to a place where they can focus on healing, surviving and thriving.

Partnering with patients on a shared journey

Cancer touches every one of us in one way or another. And just as many people have walked in the shoes of our patients before, many more will follow.

As providers of excellence in cancer care, it is everyone’s role at the Cancer Centers of Sharp to dedicate everything we know and do — whether it’s our comprehensive range of cancer treatments, educational classes and support groups, complementary services, or clinical mental health counseling — to helping our patients and their loved ones face this challenging experience.

We view their course of treatment as a shared journey, from diagnosis through survivorship. And we are far more than care providers — we are our patients’ partners in the quest to overcome this disease and live their lives on their terms, not cancer’s.

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Cheryl Fogel


Cheryl Fogel, MSW, LCSW, is a clinical medical social worker with a certification in oncology at the Laurel Amtower Cancer Institute and Neuro-Oncology Center at Sharp Memorial Hospital.

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