Cancer outreach program helps patients through journey

Feb. 03, 2013 @ 06:02 PM

In little over a year, Guide Posts of Strength has become a leader in the new field of mentoring and guiding cancer patients.

The brainchild of oncologist Dr. Bernard Chinnasami has become a program doctors across the region want to join, Chinnasami said. GPS leaders also are looking for ambassadors to reach out to the community.
“We have had doctors, experts in their fields, ask to do videos for us,” Chinnasami said. “All of them want to help patients. We do not tell them what to say. There is no criteria for them. And they know it is free.”
GPS provides “directions for the journey” through an interactive website, a panel of experts and educational programs. The videos are available through the website. Expert help ranges from hair styling to dental and genetic counseling.
“We want to keep it simple for people,” Chinnasami said. “We want it to be easy. We have no agenda. We want to be useful for patients. You feel validated when you see this working.”
When a patient is diagnosed with cancer, he or she is bombarded with information that cannot be immediately absorbed.
“It’s also hard for families,” Chinnasami said. “They can get overwhelmed too. It can be like fighting a war. You need someone who has been there before.”
For years, Chinnasami dreamed of creating a program to help cancer patients through the daily challenges of the cancer journey that he can’t always address during office visits. GPS began in 2010 after Chinnasami treated Catherine Weaver for breast cancer in December 2009. Weaver also lost a mother and brother to cancer. The two created nonprofit GPS.
“Cathy was the perfect person to do this,” Chinnasami said. “She knows how cancer strips away so much.”
“Dr. Chinnasami knows what happens to people, too,” said Weaver, who has more than 30 years of experience in journalism and public relations. “His mother had breast cancer. He gets it. It is incredible for a physician to understand the patient’s perspective.”
Among the most successful programs have been those offering specific information about gender-specific cancers, Weaver said.
“Not everyone has someone to help them with their situation. We try to provide a good match with someone and with a team to help  so that if it’s 9:30 p.m. and you have some emotional stress, you’ll have someone to go to,” Weaver said.
GPS also hosts innovative informational and recreational events that are featured on the site’s calendar. GPS was established with a start-up grant from Emily Millis-Hiatt and Molly Millis-Hedgecock in memory of their parents, Jim and Jess Millis. GPS accepts donations directly and through the High Point Community Foundation.
“We will never ask patients for a fee,” Chinnasami said. “Most of our expenses are human expenses. And High Point is a good place to be for this, because here we care for people.”

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CONTACTS
Website: www.cancergps.org - Provides cancer patients and their personal care team a comprehensive variety of information to help with the cancer journey, including sections on trusted experts, cancer guides and news. 

Contacts: Call 336-883-4GPS (4477) or email Cathy Weaver at cweaver@cancergps.org.; Guide Posts of Strength Inc., P.O. Box 5236
High Point, NC 27262 or 4515 Premier Drive, Suite 202, High Point, NC 27265