By Dr. Stephen Lottenberg, MD, PsyD
Hearing the words you have cancer changes your life forever. Most patients are overwhelmed by the diagnosis, treatment and fear of the unknown. Dr. Stephen Lottenberg, MD, PsyD, group facilitator and medical director at weSPARK, understands the emotional, physical and financial toll that cancer brings to a family. His wife, Hilary was diagnosed with lymphoma more than 20 years ago. Dr. Lottenberg realized the average person doesn’t have access to the resources they need or the ability to contact specialists and deal effectively with insurance companies. Following Hilary’s challenge with the disease, Dr. Lottenberg dedicated his career to helping cancer patients and their family members. “I found my calling when my wife was sick; I wanted to reach out and help with others through this very difficult journey,” he said. Dr. Lottenberg has extensive experience in facilitating cancer support groups throughout Los Angeles. One area of his expertise is assisting men and emphasizing how to work together through a diagnosis of cancer and how to cope with the new normal of living with cancer – before, during and after treatment.
Cancer patients often feel hopeless, even if their prognosis is good. “My good counseling sessions provide an outlet where men who are suffering from prostate and other cancers can share their thoughts about what they are going through and leave something in the room. I want them to feel empowered and in charge of the situation. While guests may initially think that all is lost, I explain that a new phase of their lives has just started, albeit one that began in the form of a very scary diagnosis. Human beings are most motivated to grow our souls when faced with adversity and during my workshops, I want to emphasize the power of that feeling.”
“The groups also provide an important outlet where members can get something off their chest and learn how to formulate clear questions for their doctors, navigate treatments and find resources to help with insurance and financial arrangements. If someone needs to change medical centers or get a second or third opinion, they will have the tools and clarity to accomplish these important tasks. My goal is for each participant to become their own counselor and in fact, many patients who have successful recoveries stay involved to become mentors and offer support to new group members,” Dr. Lottenberg explained.
The Power of the Group
“The power of the group lets our members know they are in a safe place to express their emotions and get their feelings out there. After even a short time, its amazing how quickly men will open up and work together, ultimately becoming more group-orientated during the process. If you get the chance to just talk about your problems that can actually take a lot of weight off your shoulders – venting can make you feel better. ”
“I tell my patients this is a phase. Life is full of road blocks and sometimes the cells that are always changing in our bodies turn to cancer and we need to deal with it head-on. Every cancer patient knows that life will never be the same but this refrain is key: This cancer is not going to run my life. I am not cancer; I have some cancer in parts of my body. My mind and soul and heart are here and I can still decide how I want to approach this phase of my life.”
Dr. Lottenberg facilitates weSPARK’s weekly Men’s Group every Thursday at 1:30pm. Think this group might be a good fit? Give us a call to schedule your brief welcome meeting! weSPARK Cancer Support Center is located in Los Angeles and offers completely FREE programs, workshops, classes and individual therapies to cancer patients, survivors and their loved ones. Remember to take a look at our monthly program schedule for more information about the services we offer.
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