Allison Nilsen, LCSW, Women’s Cancer Program Director at CancerCare, Answers Your FAQ’s
CancerCare’s Women’s Cancer Program Director, Allison Nilsen, LCSW, was recently invited to speak at an event about sexuality after breast cancer. In this excerpt from an earlier interview, Allison answers some frequently asked questions about CancerCare’s services.
Tell us about the work that CancerCare does in the New York community.
A lot of our clients are referred to us through hospitals, through hospital social workers or perhaps through their doctors. Many times, the people who reach out to us have been diagnosed recently and feel completely overwhelmed. There’s a lot of information about cancer that’s very confusing, they’re worried about things like bills and taking care of their families while they’re in treatment. They might not even be sure how to discuss their diagnosis with their family and friends, and how that will impact their work and their lives. We’re really here to help them through each step and be a point of support for them.
So you actually provide professional counseling?
Yes, that’s right. And we also provide a lot of help with navigation, in terms of helping people with resources and helping them understand what’s going on medically.
If someone does not have medical insurance, how can CancerCare help them?
That question comes up a lot in our work. We can inform people about the different resources, whether they might be a candidate for something like charity care, or possibly some type of emergency Medicaid. We can help point them in the right direction so that they can get the help that they need.
New York City is a city thriving with immigrants, many of whom are undocumented. If an undocumented immigrant is diagnosed with cancer, can they approach CancerCare for assistance?
Yes, they absolutely can. As long as the person is receiving treatment here in New York City, and as long as they meet our financial guidelines, then they will qualify for our limited financial assistance grants.
Which areas does CancerCare serve?
Our national office is located in Manhattan, in the Chelsea area. Anyone who is in Manhattan or the outer boroughs is welcome to come to that office. We also have regional offices in Connecticut, Long Island and New Jersey. So people in all of those locations can come to our offices for face-to-face services.
We also provide services and resources to people who aren’t in the immediate New York area, through telephone counseling and a variety of online services.
Is there a specific message you’d like to share with people about your organization?
I’d like people with cancer to know that they are not alone in this. When it feels scary and overwhelming, we are here. Anyone coping with any type of cancer can reach us at our toll-free number, 800-813-HOPE (4673). That number is always staffed by our professional oncology social workers: Monday-Thursday 9:00 am – 7:00 pm, and Fridays 9:00 am -5:00 pm.