October 25, 2018

Caring for cancer patients — in body, mind, and spirit

“You hear cancer and you’re just stunned,” said Tom Deppe, describing the day he learned he had multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer. “I’m (picturing) the worst vision of what chemotherapy could be and thinking, there’s no way in hell I can cope with this.”

Recognizing that Deppe needed care for more than his physical condition, his primary care physician suggested he see a behavioral health specialist. Moments later, Deppe was talking with a therapist.

“Tom has a lot of medical visits, like many cancer patients, so he didn’t have time for therapy in a traditional behavioral health setting,” said psychologist Andrea Maikovich-Fong, PhD.

To remove that barrier, KP Colorado created a program that integrates behavioral health specialists in the primary care setting. It’s one of several similar programs across Kaiser Permanente.

Help when it’s needed most

“I’ve had many patients tell me that they probably never would have followed up if they had just been told to call a therapist. But in that moment when they were willing to accept guidance, somebody showed up and was there for them,” said Dr. Maikovich-Fong.

Deppe struggled with depression for years before his cancer diagnosis and credits therapy with helping him dig himself out of a “deep mental health hole.”

“It’s like talking to a friend who gives you good advice and incredible positive reinforcement,” he said. “I come out of my sessions feeling like a million bucks.”

Learn more about the signs and symptoms of depression.