By Nancy Gay
The sound of a bell ringing after months of cancer treatment is often music to a patient’s ears. It’s usually a celebratory moment symbolizing closure, but when it came time for Dana Young-Melnick to take her turn under the chime, she didn’t want to do it.
At 71, Young-Melnick was in great shape. She lost 60 pounds about seven years earlier and kept it off. She never really had health problems and was not on any medication, which is why she was shocked when doctors diagnosed her with stage 4 ovarian cancer in 2017.
She underwent chemotherapy to shrink the 15 centimeter mass in her ovaries enough for it to be removed during a radical hysterectomy. Though there was no sign of the tumor following the operation, Young-Melnick underwent more chemotherapy and joined a clinical trial for immunotherapy because stage 4 ovarian cancer has an extremely high recurrence rate.
She considers her cancer diagnosis her grand adventure because that’s how she views life. Her mother used to say, "Oops there goes another moment," as a reminder that any moment goes by fast and we don't get it back. Those words took on a new meaning as she dealt with cancer and its aftermath. They also dictate how she tries to live her life.
Since Young-Melnick says she never really felt very sick during her treatment, she didn't want to ring the bell post therapy because she felt the journey wasn't really over. It was at that time she decided to seek out support from a social worker.
Moffitt Cancer Center offers specially-trained, licensed, clinical social workers to help provide the support, guidance and resources needed to help cope and manage after a diagnosis of cancer. Social workers can help patients with:
- Understanding emotions and ways to cope
- Managing changes to relationships and family
- Talking to children about a cancer diagnosis
- Discussing and completing an advance directive
- Planning for end of life
- Referral to Moffitt and community resources to help with support, home care, medical equipment, food, transportation, lodging and financial assistance
Young-Melnick says she has a predisposition to depression and feels it is therapeutic to talk to someone about her cancer experience, as well as any relationship or challenges that come up. She found the social worker very helpful. Her social worker also told her how to participate in a support group, recommended books and turned her on to additional resources at Moffitt.
A creative person by nature, Young-Melnick began by visiting Moffitt’s Arts in Medicine studio, where she learned how to make origami cranes and participated in art projects. She also tried Mindfulness classes.
After on and off years of yoga and training as a singer for the Broadway stage, she found comfort in the familiar breathing exercises and art of meditation.
Young-Melnick also participated in Imerman Angels, a program that matches cancer patients and caregivers with mentors who share a similar experience. She learned quickly that no two cancer patients are the same, but found it comforting to have someone to talk to and relate to what she was going through.
Young-Melnick believes anything is possible and says that journaling, practicing gratitude and participating in supplemental activities gives her a sense of control of the healing process.
Moffitt’s Social Work office is located on the first floor of the hospital on the Magnolia campus. You may stop by the office or call 813-745-8407 for more information or to make an appointment.