Support for psychological needs of young oncology patients

Comer Playroom
Comer Playroom
Comer Playroom
Comer Playroom

Through a new initiative called Lyon’s Way, the Lyon Family Foundation recently committed $450,000 to the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital toward hiring a full-time psychologist to support patients in the Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Oncology Program.

Thousands of children, adolescents, and young adults are diagnosed with cancer each year. These young patients face emotional, social, and medical challenges that differ dramatically from those faced by adults diagnosed with the same diseases. A cancer diagnosis can have a profound impact on both the short- and long-term mental health of a young person, leading to anxiety, depression, and other symptoms that exacerbate cancer’s physical impact.

Even more, young patients seeking care at Comer Children’s often come from underfunded neighborhoods on the South Side of Chicago. In fact, 43 percent of children in the surrounding area live in poverty (more than twice the rate across the state of Illinois). Beyond these higher rates of poverty, these neighborhoods face comparatively higher rates of violence and other trauma, complicating the struggles of families of young cancer patients.

A dedicated, full-time psychologist will help families and patients navigate treatment through individual plans that support their mental, physical, and spiritual health.

“A diagnosis of cancer for an adolescent or young adult comes at an incredibly formative time in their lives,” said Jennifer McNeer, MD, associate professor of pediatrics and co-director of the AYA Oncology Program. “The ability to have a full-time psychologist will allow that person to really work with our patients, providing the focus on mental and emotional wellness that goes hand in hand with physical health, throughout their treatment and beyond. We are so grateful to the Lyon Foundation for supporting this necessary resource.”

Both the AYA Oncology Program and Childhood Cancer Survivor Center (CCSC) at Comer Children’s rely in part on philanthropic support from organizations like the Lyon Family Foundation.

“Our goal was to partner with an organization that is addressing health disparities and taking a whole systems approach to healthcare delivery—working to improve the life of the patient, not only treating cancer,” said Executive Director Alexandra Lyon Singer, whose parents, Robert and Donna Lyon, established the Foundation in 2000 to carry on a legacy of giving by increasing access and opportunity for Chicago’s at-risk youth through partnerships with local nonprofits. “We found that partner in Comer Children’s, and we look forward to seeing how a more holistic approach to cancer treatment will lead to better life outcomes.”

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