Dignity Health Glendale Memorial Hospital is now hosting a free, educational series for Armenian cancer patients and their families every Wednesday to promote emotional wellness and healthy living in an underserved community, according to hospital officials.
Launched by Cancer Support Community Pasadena, in conjunction with a colorectal team at Glendale Memorial, the series presents weekly bilingual workshops, covering topics such as dietary tips, art therapy and methods to manage anxiety.
One of the program’s main goals is to help Armenian families overcome a cultural stigma associated with the illness, according to Laura Wending, a program director with the Pasadena center.
“We’re focusing on the emotional side of things, and part of the anxiety and distress comes from this underlying stigma,” Wending said. “So, we want [attendees] to feel open, to be able to talk about it.”
Integrating psycho-social support into cancer treatment has been proven to reduce anxiety and depression — mental-health issues that can suppress the immune system — potentially worsening a patient’s physical health, according to Wending.
Many of the program’s topics were adapted from a Spanish-language program that has been running for several years in Pasadena, Wending said.
However, some of the topics are unique to the Glendale program, including a talk about the impact of past trauma on health, to be presented on March 13.
The speaker, Christie Teharkhoutian, is a marriage-and-family therapist who wrote her dissertation on the unique health impacts faced by survivors of the Armenian Genocide.
Launched on Jan. 23, with a grant from the private UniHealth Foundation, the series is slated to run at least two years and is open to patients at any stage of treatment for any type of cancer.
Adult children and caregivers of cancer patients are encouraged to attend the programs, even if the patient declines, said Patricia Ostiller, director of development for the Pasadena organization.
“The younger generation can educate their parents,” Ostiller said.
Weekly programs are held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Wednesdays in the cancer center’s auditorium located at Glendale Memorial, 222 W. Eulalia St., with blue balloons marking the entrance.