After completing cancer treatment, many people experience a desire to connect with other survivors. At Memorial Sloan Kettering, one of the ways survivors can do so is through the quarterly newsletter known as Bridges, which began in 2008 as the vision of cancer survivor and volunteer Eileen Gould and celebrates its five-year anniversary this summer.
“It’s been a wonderful five years,” says Ms. Gould, who also serves as the patient editor of Bridges. “When I was first diagnosed, back in the late 1970s, nobody talked about their illness – so when I began volunteering at Memorial in 2008, I knew I wanted to help create a vehicle for doing just that.”
The aim of Bridges is to provide cancer survivors with a forum where they can share their stories and give hope to those who are just beginning treatment. It consists primarily of personal reflections written by patients. But the newsletter also offers essential health information to survivors presented by Memorial Sloan Kettering experts on topics such as coping with fatigue, sexual health, and ways to reduce anxiety – and it includes reviews of books, support services, and other resources that may be of particular interest.
An advisory committee including doctors, nurses, social workers, psychologists, survivors, and caregivers meets monthly to discuss content and review feedback from readers.
An “Overwhelming Positive” Response
Meghan Newcomer, Coordinator of Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Survivorship Initiative, serves as managing editor of the newsletter and describes the response from readers as “overwhelmingly positive.” She estimates that more than 7,000 print copies are distributed quarterly to patients at various locations. In addition, more than 760 readers from around the world receive the newsletter via e-mail.
Past contributors have included Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Dan Barry and published author Ellen Greenfield, but most contributors possess no formal writing experience. Writing coaches are available through Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Visible Ink program for those patients who find they need help telling their stories. “Judith Kelman, the Founder of Visible Ink, is on our advisory committee and is incredibly supportive of helping novice writers,” adds Ms. Newcomer.
Reflecting upon the impact of Bridges on patients who have contributed, Ms. Newcomer asserts, “The universal response has been gratitude for the opportunity to share their story. Authors regularly comment that they want to help others who are beginning treatment or who have survived and need ongoing support, and Bridges is certainly a great way to do that.”
Ms. Gould too says she is grateful for the experience. “Volunteering with patients is so amazing, especially at Memorial,” she adds. “Memorial goes out of its way, not just in survivorship but in patient support services, which are just so far ahead of any other hospital I’ve ever been. They really make an effort to improve quality of life.”
Sign up to receive Bridges by e-mail or learn more about submitting your story.