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Celebrating 80 Years of CancerCare: Q&A with Kathy Nugent

As part of our 80th-anniversary celebration this year, we’re speaking with CancerCare staff to discuss their history with the organization, how it’s changed and how working here has impacted them.

Below is a conversation with Kathy Nugent, LCSW, CancerCare’s Senior Director of Regional Programs.

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When did you first join CancerCare?
I first joined CancerCare in 1982 as a social worker in the Long Island office in Woodbury, NY.

What roles have you had at CancerCare?
I started my career at CancerCare as a social worker. In 1999, I was promoted to Director of Social Services—New Jersey office. In 2015, I was promoted to Regional Director, managing offices in New Jersey and Connecticut and in 2022, I was promoted to Senior Director of Regional Programs (New Jersey and Connecticut).

How has CancerCare evolved since you joined?
CancerCare was a New York-based organization when I first joined. Then, it expanded to include New Jersey and Connecticut and finally became a national organization today. When I first worked in the Long Island office back in the 80s we provided home visiting. This was always both challenging and rewarding as well. Being able to meet with patients who were coping with cancer in their home environment provided a sense of comfort to those needing our support.

Do you have a specific memory that exemplifies CancerCare's mission of providing help and hope to people affected by cancer?
When we began offering Magnolia Meals at Home more than ten years ago, I remember talking to a single mother who was diagnosed with cancer about her concern for her daughter, who was a teenager at the time and in high school. The patient shared that due to her treatment side effects, she was not always able to eat the meals that were delivered to her home by this program. However, she was grateful for the meals because she could provide nutritious meals to her daughter. She felt empowered to offer her daughter the meals. This is just a tiny sample of how CancerCare’s support and programs impact the lives of our clients.

I also remember talking on the phone with the husband of a patient who was calling for information about our programs and what support was available for his wife. After spending time talking about his wife’s cancer and her needs, I asked him, the spouse, how he was doing. He hesitated and said, “Kathy, thank you for asking me, as no one ever asks how I am doing.” This taught me a lesson to always ask how the relative who calls for the patient is coping. Caregivers have a challenging role and need our support, too. We cannot forget them.

In light of CancerCare turning 80 this year, are there any other big milestones that you remember?
Going national with our toll-free Hopeline, 800‑813‑HOPE (4673), was a significant development. Being able to provide support to those touched by cancer throughout the country is amazing and so needed. The other milestone is our Healing Hearts Family Bereavement Camp, which we have offered to grieving families with children who have experienced the death of a loved one to cancer for the past 15 years. This camp is unique as it is offered to the whole family and it’s a free weekend to be with family to remember and honor loved ones and, at the same time, meet others who are grieving. It is an amazing weekend of hope and healing.

How has CancerCare's social work program changed/evolved since you first joined the organization?
In addition to our Hopeline, we also offer resource navigation nationally to those who need resources in their community to assist in their cancer journey. We are now offering counseling in New York and New Jersey virtually (in addition to in-person), which has helped in providing support to those who would not have been able to be seen in one of our local offices. Our clients have embraced this opportunity.

How has working at CancerCare affected you?
I love my work at CancerCare. I feel blessed and privileged to be able to continue to work with clients facing cancer, as well as caregivers and bereaved. Listening and supporting my clients in their cancer journey has allowed me to be more appreciative of every moment of my life and to remind myself to be grateful every day. I enjoy mentoring and guiding others in this profession as well and hope I have helped others through my work, too. CancerCare is an amazing organization and I have always valued the support provided to all of us and I am fortunate to work here.

To learn more about the history of CancerCare and to see how we’re celebrating 80 years of providing help and hope, visit or follow our 80th anniversary social posts with the hashtag #CancerCare80.

Posted by Guest Blogger on May 17, 2024 in Advocacy
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