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Gilda's Club QC Chosen For National Cancer Institute-Funded Study

Gilda's Club Quad Cities

A researcher with decades of experience in family behavioral studies has chosen Gilda's Club of the Quad Cities as the site for her next field study.

The 10-week trial will help determine the impact of an educational program created for children whose parents have been diagnosed with advanced-stage cancer.

It all started in 1989, when Dr. Frances Lewis was visiting with women recently diagnosed with non-terminal breast cancer. 

"Nobody had gone into that window: how are these households doing after she's released from treatment? The doc[tors] don't see her anymore, then they're launched and raising children."

But she says more and more, she and her team would hear from the highly distressed children of the sick moms.

"The most compelling example of this was one of the doctorally trained RA's was leaving the house and this little boy ran after her and he said, 'You've gotta help us, you've gotta help us, come back, you've gotta help us.'"

Lewis continued to study familial coping mechanisms and trends for years.

Then in 2014, with the help of a 6 million dollar grant from the National Cancer Institute, she published the results of a 6-state clinical trial that tested a program called "Enhancing Connections" -- complete with workbooks and homework assignments for parents with cancer and their kids. 

"It's not about the biology of the cancer at all -- it's about ways to interact and talk with the child that draw out the child's concerns and worries, or questions. And giving parents new skills and competencies to interact with and support the child."
But whereas that study tested the program in a private setting--between a parent, their child, and a social worker--the upcoming study will test "Enhancing Connections" in a group setting.

Lewis says that will make the program more accessible.

"Most insurers don't even cover this kind of service. It's an educational learning model, not psychotherapy. It's like this whole hole in our providers system doesn't cover the cost of educational counseling programs."

And that leads to one of the reasons why she choose Gilda's Club, which provides free services, and has locations in Chicago and Philadelphia that will also participate.

"They're a non-profit, free service. The largest provider system of free services, unattached to any medical system in the entire United States. So they're open doors to anybody."

The 10-week study, open to mothers and fathers with zero to stage three cancer, calls for 10 participants at each of the three locations. 

Gilda's Club of the Quad Cities says it will still take on parents with cancer who might not qualify for the study but want help connecting with their kids.