Two members of the B.Bold crochet group present a blanket to a cancer patient who is receiving chemotherapy.
Being diagnosed with breast cancer affects more than a patient's physical well being. Those who learn they have the disease not only have to deal with their medical treatment, but also the emotional, social and spiritual issues that come with having cancer. Too often patients are overwhelmed with medical details while their psychosocial needs get put on the back burner.
The B.BOLD (Bronx Breast Oncology Living Daily) program understands how isolating a cancer diagnosis can be. It screens patients and caregivers to determine what their psychosocial and support needs are, providing them with access to the services they require — wellness, counseling, legal, peer support and more — for free.
Some are programs offered in-house through the umbrella BOLD Living Program, which includes:
For other needs, patients are referred to local resources, including Komen grantees. In addition, Komen Greater NYC provides transportation stipends for program participants.
"This is very unique program," said Alyson Moadel, PhD, Director of the Psychosocial Oncology Program. "Many patients already receive navigation for their medical needs, but they have emotional, social and spiritual needs as well. B.BOLD is about helping patients navigate the psychosocial terrain so they are equipped with all the resources necessary to cope with the challenges of living with breast cancer and its treatment."
The Komen-funded B.BOLD Buddies program grew out of the Bronx Community Cancer Coalition — a group of 15 Bronx-based organizations whose mission is to improve the health and well being of Bronx residents affected by cancer. Representatives of cancer advocacy, nonprofit and church programs — most of them Bronx residents and people of color, some of them cancer survivors — meet monthly to determine the needs of county residents who have been diagnosed with and are dealing with the disease.
Albert Einstein College of Medicine, working with the Coalition, applied for a grant for funding of the peer support program and was funded by Komen Greater NYC in 2011.
B.BOLD is open to any Bronx resident. Participants are referred from medical care staff — doctors, nurses and social workers — at the Montefiore-Einstein Center for Cancer Care and other institutions. In addition, many people come to the program after seeing outreach material in the local community and/or receiving email or mail announcements.
"People can participate in the program at any stage of their cancer journey," explained Melissa Martinez, MS, Program Coordinator of B.BOLD Buddies and BOLD Healthy Living, "whether recently diagnosed or during treatment. They can also be part of the program after treatment, because they still might benefit from wellness and other assistance."
Each patient or caregiver is assessed to determine her/his needs. They are then matched with and referred to the appropriate services. B.BOLD transcends cultural and linguistic barriers. Several staff, as well as volunteers, are bi-lingual, which is essential since many patients only speak Spanish. All buddies are from the Bronx and have a special interest in helping people who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.
B.BOLD Buddy volunteers are inspired to get involved for a variety of reasons. For example, two are cancer survivors who were interested in helping fellow Bronx women of color in their fight against cancer. Another became inspired to volunteer after caregiving for her late mother-in-law.
And participants are grateful for the opportunity to have one-on-one support from a caring individual:
"Many of our participants wouldn't know to ask for help with their psychosocial needs," explained Moadel, "which is why we do extensive outreach to let people in the community know that these services are available. No one should have to go through breast cancer alone."