Today we have a treat for you--meet Befriender Jo-Anna Ross! She started at Cancer Connection in February, just before the pandemic impacted how we offer Befriending services.
What attracted Jo-Anna to Befriending at Cancer Connection?
“I just really like to help people. All the industries I have worked in have been people related. I worked in the service industry and I ran my own business, a day care for about 8 years when my children were young. Knowing that I’ve helped people is important to me.”
Jo-Anna describes a befriending call
"The first thing we do is reach out in a friendly tone and try to relate to them, person to person, and try to find out about them, their personal circumstances. We hear what they’re going through. We ask what kinds of questions they would like to ask and have answered. We start to have conversations about which, if any of our offerings might be good for them.
We can offer our calming strategies sessions and prepare for surgery or treatment recordings and the programs that we’re offering online. Then we try to find the answers to their questions. We encourage people to call again if they just want to talk. It's a good release, to just have a conversation, maybe away from the cancer, about something in their life, away from the family. Someone said recently, it’s a relief to have a space to think differently for a while.”
"We're actively reaching out"
Mere weeks after Jo-Anna came on board, our befriending model had to be revised due to the Covid-19. Safety precautions required Cancer Connection to close its physical space to the public. Previously, Befrienders received calls and talked with people who came to our center in person. Befrienders waited for people to get in touch about whatever it was they wanted to talk about, and while they made follow-up calls, they followed the lead of the participants (Cancer Connection’s term for those who use our services).
Now, to ensure participants have the access they want, to get the resource information they need, and to connect during the isolation caused by the pandemic, Befrienders actively reach out to participants to check in. “We’re calling out on a regular basis to people, to help them be as engaged as they want to be and to know we’re here for them,” Jo-Anna said.
“A lot of people call at the point of just being diagnosed or when they’re about to have surgery. People are more apt to call us in the throes of things. Sometimes they’re not able to take advantage, right now, of our services. It’s a lot to take in at that point. But now we’re able to reach out to them at various points along their experience with cancer or caregiving. If we find out when they’re having surgery, during our conversation(s), we can call them to check in, find out how they are, after an appropriate healing period, and offer connection and support at what might be just the right time. In the past, we may have waited till they came in or called after surgery or after an intensive period of treatment,” she said.
What are people dealing with during the pandemic?
“It has eased up now, but before, people would get diagnosed, surgeries were delayed or no dates were set for their treatment, diagnostic testing was delayed, and people I talked with were talking about how difficult that was. Having to face surgeries and treatments completely alone was an extra layer of stress. People were driving themselves to hospitals, being alone at a really emotional time of life. Many people commented that they were lucky to have their treatments earlier, before Covid, and have people with them.”
It's never too early to call
Jo-Anna encourages people living with cancer and their loved ones and caregivers to call. “People say they feel very happy about the connection when we call, and people express their gratitude. I say it’s never too early [when dealing with cancer] to call us.”