Living Well Despite Cancer with Win Boerckel

By Win Boerckel
WebMD Live Events Transcript

Cancer can take quite an emotional toll on the patient and their loved ones. Join Win Boerckel, CSW for a discussion about the counseling and emotional support patients and loved ones need during their battle with cancer.

The opinions expressed herein are the guests' alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

Moderator: Good evening all! Please welcome Win Boerckel, CSW.

Boerckel serves as prostate cancer program coordinator for Cancer Care of Long Island, overseeing the office's three prostate cancer support groups and providing individual counseling to prostate cancer patients and their families. He also leads support groups for lung cancer patients and on bereavement at the organization's Woodbury, N.Y. office.

Moderator: Welcome Mr. Boerckel.

Boerckel: Thank you. I'm delighted to be here.

Moderator: Can you begin by telling us a little about Cancer Care?

Boerckel: Cancer Care has been in existence for over 54 years serving the needs of cancer patients and their families. Currently, we serve a national client base through our website (, our national counseling line (1 800 813 HOPE), and our email. We serve our clients with information and referral, counseling, and limited financial assistance. We have over 45 licensed oncology social workers on staff to counsel our clients.

Moderator: How important are social workers to a cancer patient's treatment?

Boerckel: We believe that when a person is dealing with cancer, that it needs to be treated both medically and emotionally. Your physician handles the medical part, and we feel that the oncology social worker is best qualified to assist patients and family with the emotional coping aspects of the disease.

mold28_WebMD: How do you get brought in on a treatment team? A referral?

Boerckel: In an inpatient setting, the oncology social worker is normally already part of a cancer patient's treatment team. If you are dealing with the disease outside a cancer center, then you will probably have to seek out an agency like Cancer Care for those services. We often speak with patients or family over our counseling line and provide them with referrals to these services throughout the country.

Moderator: What is the most common concern of cancer patients that you see?

Boerckel: I would venture to say that treatment options would be the most common. Often patients feel that they are unable to get enough information on proposed treatment for their disease. Rather than provide information that is really the MD's province, we work with patients to help them establish more useful communications with their physicians.

mold28_WebMD: How closely do you work with other members of the treatment team?

Boerckel: Cancer Care is not affiliated with any medical center, so we do not usually work with a treatment team.

Moderator: Are there any special considerations for cancer patients in the workplace?

Boerckel: Yes, there are, especially in the power of the Americans With Disabilities Act. The ADA provides really excellent protection for the cancer patient who chooses to remain or return to the workplace. Similarly, the Family Medical Leave Act facilitates the caregiver's need to help the patient. If you are having workplace problems, I would encourage you to contact the Cancer Care Counseling Line (1 800 813 HOPE) and speak with one of our workers on the specific problems you are facing.

Moderator: What rights do cancer patients need to be aware of?

Boerckel: As a person with a disability, you have the right to have your employer make reasonable accommodation to have you remain or return to the workplace. Reasonable accommodation includes such factors as changed tours of duty to accommodate treatment schedules; reconfiguration of tasks to accommodate changes in abilities; and the right to grievance and to report perceived failure on the employer's part to the EEOC.

wabe_grb_WebMD: I have been curious to try art therapy or music therapy. Do you have any experience with those?

Boerckel: As a primary or adjuvant treatment? While I have no personal experience with these therapies, a number of my clients have found them very helpful in that it gives them a sense of connection and creative control in a world that has become very difficult to control. We do offer workshops in our east coast offices that introduce patients to these modalities.

Moderator: Do the majority of cancer centers have certified social workers?

Boerckel: Yes, they do. Cancer centers do recognize the value of the worker to patient comfort. Smaller local hospitals that do not have cancer centers may not have certified social workers, but will have case managers who assist patients primarily with discharge planning.

Moderator: When is the first contact with a social worker for most cancer patients?

Boerckel: In the inpatient setting, the social worker is usually expected to make contact with the patient or family member within 24 hours of the patient's admission. In Cancer Care's case, we usually are contacted by patient or family soon after the diagnosis has been confirmed.

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