This autumn, the International Myeloma Society teamed with the Center of Excellence for Multiple Myeloma at Mount Sinai’s Tisch Cancer Center. Yu Mee Song, LCSW, the Social Works Program Coordinator for the program, led the efforts to distribute the tests among patients at main campus on the Upper East Side, near Spanish Harlem, and one of their secondary locations in Brooklyn, New York. The program also has another satellite location in Chelsea. The satellite locations are instrumental in providing easier access to specialized myeloma care to an under-served population.
Since joining the Myeloma Program in 2010, Yu Mee has been instrumental in expanding the Social Work staff and developing psychosocial programs to meet the emotional needs of patients and caregivers affected by multiple myeloma. She leads four other myeloma social workers in providing continuity of care from diagnosis throughout the treatment trajectory of myeloma patients. She works at Mount Sinai Hospital’s main campus on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, near Spanish Harlem. To help our readers understand the specific challenges myeloma patients face, especially around COVID, Yu Mee has shared some insights with the IMS Post.
Please tell us a little about your clinic and the MM patients that you serve.
We see patients during regular clinic and follow-up visits, which are held Monday-Friday by ten attendings each with a team of NPs and RNs, and in the infusion center during their treatments. Patients come from all over New York City, New York State, and many travel from out of state seeking specialized myeloma care.
What are some of the specific challenges your MM patients face?
Patients must cope and adjust to the myeloma diagnosis and learn how to live with the disease.
Financially and logistically, it is also a huge challenge. Travelling into Manhattan from the five boroughs or further away, including out of state, can be costly. Tolls and parking alone are expensive in the city. Plus, the need for patients and care givers to take time off work. For those travelling from a distance, it can be expensive to find lodging near the cancer center, especially if patients need to have multiple back-to-back treatments.
Patients also face challenges with maintaining adequate health insurance and meeting co-pays. In addition to which, they may face potential job loss or reduced income, which can make covering living expenses hard.
How does COVID continue to impact your patients?
Many patients have reported feeling isolated as social support has been interrupted when trying to cope with a diagnosis or treatment. Most community programs and support groups are now virtual. Many patients still report anxiety about leaving home.
Now that restrictions are easing, how do you recommend your patients protect themselves?
Patients need to follow recommendations by their myeloma doctor. They should still take precautions as they are at higher risk of infections (wear a mask, socially distance, and sanitize hands regularly).
What advice do you think the myeloma community needs to hear about COVID?
We know that people with myeloma are at higher risks of infection, so it is important that patients always follow their doctors’ recommendations for vaccines and precautions as it pertains to their particular case. It is also important for patient emotional well-being to maintain social contact and support to prevent feelings of isolation and depression.