Patients and Families Conference

The Annual Conference for Patients and Families is organized by the Cancer Center’s Network for Patients & Families and the Maxwell V. Blum Cancer Resource Program and is made possible by a grant from the Conquer Cancer Coalition of Massachusetts.

2019 Conference

Join us for this FREE event!

Finding Your Place in the World after Cancer: Opportunities and Challenges

Saturday, June 15th | 8:30am – 1:30pm
Simches Bldg
Mass General Hospital, Boston

This event is free and open to the public. Space is limited.

Cancer diagnosis and treatment can change your life forever. Even after active treatment ends, many of us can be caught off-guard by the emotional challenges we continue to face. There is often uncertainty in managing the what ifs…what if my cancer comes back, or what if I have trouble adjusting to life after cancer.

Some people describe their experience dealing with cancer as an ongoing trauma. Many may feel that they are alone in their thinking. You are not alone.

The Mass General Cancer Center community is here to support you and help answer any questions as you think about life after a cancer diagnosis. How does psychological stress affect people who have cancer? How can we learn to cope with psychological stress? What do people who have had cancer want their caregivers and family members to know? How can you be your own best advocate for better health? How can you continue to heal? What does your ‘new normal’ look like?

This free conference will address how Mass General Cancer Center is working to better recognize and combat traumatic thinking. You will be given tools and resources to help you find and maintain your emotional footing as you adapt to your new reality.


Conference Emcee: Billy Costa, Radio and Television Personality

8:30am-9:00am: Registration

9:00am-9:15am: Welcome and Introduction
  • Mara Bloom, JD

    Executive Director, Mass General Cancer Center

  • Jeff Peppercorn, MD, MPH

    Associate Professor of Medicine
    Director, Supportive Care and Survivorship


9:15am-9:45am: Presentation: Immunotherapy as Innovation
  • Justin Gainor, MD

    Director, Targeted Immunotherapy


9:45am-10:30am: Interview: Framing the Issue: A Chat with Oncology Social Work
  • Leanne Miller, MSW, LICSW

    Oncology Social Worker

  • Jennifer D'Alotto, MSW, LICSW

    Oncology Social Worker


10:30am-10:45am: Break


10:45am-11:30am: Interview: Lifestyle Medicine
  • Betsy O'Donnell, MD

    Director, Lifestyle Medicine Clinic


11:30am-12:15pm: Interview: Resiliency and Stress-Management
  • Gisele Perez, PhD

    Psychologist, Behavioral Medicine Service


12:20am-12:30pm: Closing Exercise
  • Rev. Donna Blagdan, BCC

    Spiritual Care Provider, Oncology


12:30am-1:30pm: Lunch and Networking

2018 Conference

Own Your Story: Creating Meaning from Your Cancer Experience

June 16, 2018 |Boston

Learning that you or your loved one has cancer is life-changing. The emotional challenges at the time of diagnosis, during treatment, and months or even years after treatment has ended may compel you to search for deeper meaning and purpose. You may have examined your life, questioned what really matters most to you, or taken steps to try to live fully in the moment.

How do you create meaning within your cancer experience? Many of us find value by telling our personal narratives, whether it be through art therapy, music therapy, or talk therapy; journaling; turning to faith and spirituality; or by giving back to others. We all have diverse ways of making our experiences meaningful. What else have others done to find a sense of meaning from their cancer experience? Learn from patients, caregivers, and care providers and connect with others as we discover new goals and possibilities together.

Agenda & Videos

Welcome and Introduction
    • Mara Bloom, JD

      Executive Director
      Mass General Cancer Center

Executive Director Mara Bloom opens the day by discussing the wide array of supportive care tools at the Cancer Center. She acknowledges those who helped to make this event possible.

CAR T-Cell Therapy as Innovation
    • Matthew Frigault, MD

      Administrative Director of Cellular Therapy Service
      BMT/Cellular Therapy Attending
      Mass General Cancer Center

Dr. Frigault gives an overview of CAR T-Cell Therapy and its impact on patients while also sharing Mass General Cancer Center initiatives that strive to advance and better understand this exciting treatment.

Living With Cancer
  • David Ryan, MD

    Chief, Division of Hematology Oncology, and Clinical Director
    Mass General Cancer Center

Dr. Ryan highlights two concepts from his book, co-authored with Dr. Vicki Jackson, titled "Living with Cancer: A Step by Step Guide for Coping Medically and Emotionally with a Serious Illness." (1) prognostic awareness and (2) how your idea of time after you were diagnosed with cancer.

Provider Panel: Ways to Make Meaning

Counselors across different disciplines come together to describe their work with patients, dispel misconceptions, and reflect the importance of making a connection with patients.

Patient Panel: Introductions

Mass General Cancer Center patients, who have worked with counselors on our provider panel, start off by introducing themselves.

Patient Panel: Stories of Meaning

Members of our panel share how they’ve found a sense of meaning in their cancer journeys. They talk about what matters most to them, how they have changed, and finish with advice they would give to someone newly diagnosed.

Patient Panel: Audience Q&A

The panel answers questions from the audience.

Heartfulness Exercise Guided Mediation

Fill your heart with compassion, love, and wellness as Katrina Scott leads us in a guided meditation.

Conference Emcee and Panel Moderator:

  • Bob Socci

    Radio Play-by-Play Voice of the New England Patriots


2016 Conference

Sustaining Hope and Cultivating Resilience:
The Emotional Impact of Innovations in Cancer Therapies

October 22, 2016 | Boston


The ways in which each of us cope with a cancer diagnosis can vary greatly. How do we get to and maintain a healthy frame of mind in the midst of change and in the face of the unknown? Do we tend to manage our emotions and stress differently at different points in our cancer journey?

Innovations, like immunotherapy, accelerate the development of cancer treatments and revolutionize patient care. While such innovations continue to offer hope to patients and families, many of us struggle with the challenge of changes in treatment and modalities. How do our expectations of innovations, treatment goals and reality impact our emotional well-being?

This conference will explore the impact of innovations on the patient experience as well as strategies for maintaining emotional balance through the ups and downs of treatment. Join us as we learn from each other the different ways we can be resilient by incorporating new hopes and expectations.

Our emcee and panel moderator is Candy O'Terry, Co-Founder & President, Boston Women in Media & Entertainment and Massachusetts Broadcasters Association 2015 Broadcaster of the Year.

Agenda & Videos

Welcome and Introduction
  • Mara Bloom, JD

    Executive Director
    Mass General Cancer Center

Executive Director Mara Bloom welcomes everyone, discusses the wide array of supportive care tools at the Cancer Center and acknowledges those who helped to make this event possible.

Immunotherapy as Innovation

  • Krista Rubin, NP

    Nurse Educator
    Mass General Cancer Center

Emcee Candy O’Terry introduces the day’s theme - advanced progress in how we treat cancer can not only provide us with hope it can also lead to uncertainty. How do we deal with these emotional ups and downs? Candy welcomes our first speaker, Krista Rubin. Krista gives an overview of what immunotherapy is and how it is changing the face of cancer care while also acknowledging the challenges that both patients and providers face in the realm of immune therapy.

The Emotional Conflicts of Cancer: Reconciling Our Internal and External Worlds

View slide presentation

  • Joseph Greer, PhD

    Program Director, Center for Psychiatric Oncology & Behavioral Sciences
    Mass General Cancer Center

Coping Styles and Strategies
View slide presentation

  • Lauren DeMarco, MSW, LICSW

    Oncology Social Worker
    Mass General Cancer Center

Whether you are the patient, caregiver, or family member, there are many sources of stress that require a response on a regular basis. The constant demand can be exhausting. Lauren DeMarco addresses the many ways we cope and how we can adapt our coping styles to different situations and transitions when your life is affected by cancer.

Patient and Caregiver Panel Discussion and Q&A - Moderated by Candy O'Terry
  • Candy O'Terry

    Co-Founder & President, Boston Women in Media & Entertainment
    Massachusetts Broadcasters Association 2015 Broadcaster of the Year

Past Events

View topics and speakers from past conferences


2015 Conference

Like our understanding of cancer and the care required to treat cancer in its many forms, the concept of ‘survivorship’ or ‘living with cancer’ is in a state of redefinition. Each patient’s experience, even if they have the same diagnosis or are on the same treatment, can be vastly different from one another. How then do you define what living with cancer means? And, importantly, how do we honor each other’s individual experience and still find areas of common experience that can form the basis for community-building?

The conference is an opportunity to come together with other patients and families to talk about experiences and identify how, together, we can sustain an ongoing and supportive community. We hope to learn from each other so that all of us can learn to thrive, here at Mass General and beyond.


  • How are Advances in Cancer Medicine Individualizing the Cancer Experience?

    Jeffrey M. Peppercorn, MD, MPH
    Director of the Mass General Cancer Center Survivorship Program

  • Shared Concerns, Shared Objectives: Towards the Concept of Community after the Cancer Experience

    Don S. Dizon, MD
    Director of the Mass General Oncology Sexual Health Clinic

  • How Can Lifestyle Medicine Help With Quality of Life?

    Betsy K. O'Donnell, MD
    Director of Lifestyle Medicine and Associate Director of the Mass General Cancer Center Survivorship Program

  • How Can We Move From Living With Cancer to Thriving?

    Panel Discussion and Q&A

2014 Conference - Through Each Other’s Eyes: What We’ve Learn From Living with Cancer

Overview: Being diagnosed with cancer changes one’s life forever. How we think, feel and cope is unique to each of us. By looking though each other’s eyes, we can see the ways others have made sense of living with cancer, helping us in turn to better understand our own experience. Listening can inspire us to reconsider our past, take action in the present, or prepare for challenges in the future.

Agenda: A Survivor’s Perspective Felicia Knaul, PhD, cancer survivor, health economist

Panel Discussion Patients, family members and Mass General staff who have lived with cancer share their experiences

An Oncologist’s Perspective: Don S. Dizon, MD, Director of The Oncology Sexual Health Clinic at Mass General Cancer Center gave a keynote lecture at the 2014 Survivorship Conference. His talk was entitled "After Cancer: Or, on being an oncologist".

2013 Conference - Let’s Talk: The Changing Landscape of Cancer Care

Overview: Advances in understanding cancer and its treatment are in the news almost every day. Cancer research is being translated into new treatments more rapidly than ever before. People are living with cancer longer, but this positive change comes with new challenges. The conference explored the promise and possible challenges of these advances, discussed experience of living with cancer as a chronic illness and considered strategies for living well with cancer.

Agenda: Dr. Lecia Sequist, Mass General Cancer Center oncologist in the Center for Thoracic Cancers, gave a keynote lecture at the 2013 Survivorship Conference. Her talk was entitled "The Changing Landscape of Cancer Care".

Let’s Talk: A Panel of Clinicians and Patients Share their Perspectives Followed by Audience Discussion

Integrating Wellness Services into Cancer Care
Terry McDonnell, ACNP-BC

Gentle Chair Yoga: An Experiential Introduction to Yoga and the Relaxation Response
Jay Gupta, RPh, RYT, MTM specialist

Self-Compassion and Mindfulness for Patients and Family Members
Susan Pollak, EdD


For further information, or if you have questions, please call (617) 724-1822, or email:

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