Amy Boylan, who facilitates several of the Learn & Support Groups offered by Cancer Support Community Arizona, has had a long and varied career as a social worker and counselor.
She’s helped people who were homebound connect with vital community resources; provided counseling for community college students; served as an academic advisor at Arizona State University (where she earned her Bachelor and Masters degrees); and spent many years as a mediator in the often fraught world of family and juvenile court.
What brought her to CSCAZ, however, was a very personal understanding of how support groups can help people going through health challenges.
Amy’s husband, Tom, has lived with Type 1 diabetes for many years, and the two have found their involvement in a support group to be extremely helpful, she said.
“I really believe in the value of support groups and I know how much we’ve gotten out of the diabetes support group, so when I heard about Cancer Support Community, I wanted to become involved,” she said.
Amy joined CSCAZ in late 2019 and facilitated the popular weekly Monday support group. This quickly turned into a virtual group as COVID-19 spread.
This summer, she began leading four of the five “Learn and Support” groups offered by CSCAZ. These groups are diagnosis-specific, with groups for specific types of cancers: lung, gynecological, pancreatic and neuroendocrine. (The fifth group for multiple myeloma patients is led by Linda Ruvalcaba).
The monthly groups are a little different, she says, primarily because everyone in the group has a similar diagnosis and – quite literally – speaks the same lingo. Conversations tend to lean into discussions of new clinical trials, developments in the treatment plans, and shared symptoms and side effects.
“It’s not that they aren’t looking for that emotional support that you find in other groups – they are – but it gets more specific and educational,” Amy says. “It’s really excellent information and a lot of great advice.”
The help that more experienced patients provide to the newly diagnosed is one of the more rewarding parts of the groups, she said. “I think many of them really enjoy being able to help out someone who is a newbie,” she said. “It’s their chance to say I’ve lived this journey and you can do it, too.”
Amy encourages those who have been diagnosed with lung, gynecological, pancreatic, neuroendocrine or multiple myeloma to check out the Learn and Support groups for those cancers.
“The groups are here, the people are wonderful, and there’s a lot of great stories and information being shared,” she said.