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Alta Bates helps people cope with cancer

By Jia-Rui Chong, Daily Planet staff
Thursday April 11, 2002

Armed with a plastic take-apart human model, oncology nurse Bev Hart-Inkster set about teaching patients and their loved ones how to cope with cancer on Wednesday night. It was the first class in a free, eight-class program, developed by the American Cancer Society, that will take place at the Alta Bates Comprehensive Cancer Center. 

The “I Can Cope” program aims to educate people about cancer in order to help them deal more effectively with all facets of the disease. 

Hart-Inkster hopes class participants will leave feeling empowered.  

“I hope the knowledge they receive – learning, learning and learning – over these eight weeks will help them cope better because they’re not afraid,” she said. 

The first class was merely an introduction, and future classes will deal with issues such as treatment options, legal issues and feelings and relationships. 

Emotions, according to Hart-Inkster, are by far the hardest thing to talk about. 

“It’s not difficult for us to talk to them about the emotional aspects. But it’s very hard for them to face the emotions,” Hart-Inkster said. “It’s easier to talk about the physical aspects of the disease than the emotions.” 

Erda Sanders, an Oakland resident who has been dealing with cancer over the past year, said that she came to learn more about just these issues. 

“I wanted to learn more about dealing with changes in my relationship and how to keep positive when my body keeps betraying me,” Sanders said. 

Nice Cho, who just had extensive surgery for ovarian cancer, appreciated the anatomy lesson at Wednesday’s meeting, but also looked forward to the emotional strategies. 

“I’m here to learn how to cope. Sometimes I get depressed,” Cho said. 

Hart-Inkster said she has seen “a big time difference” in patients and loved ones who have attended the program. 

“It’s not such a mystery anymore,” she said. 

Each “I Can Cope” program is different at every local hospital where it is implemented, according to Luanne Ridgley, who co-facilitates the program with Hart-Inkster. 

For one thing, the guest speakers who attend each class come from the local community. Also, Berkeley audiences seemed especially interested in legal advice, so they added a class called “Mobilizing Resources.” 

“I Can Cope” will take place in at the Maffly Auditorium on the Herrick campus, 2001 Dwight Way, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. during the next seven weeks. Newcomers are welcome, though registration is recommended. Call Ridgley at (510) 204-4895 for more information.