Ruth Rales program director helps clients cope with cancer

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Ruth Rales program director helps clients cope with cancer

Postby patoco » Sat Feb 03, 2007 8:08 pm

Ruth Rales program director helps clients cope with cancer and lymphedema

By Michelle Mundy

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Trish Hartog knows she makes a difference as director of the cancer support program at Ruth Rales Jewish Family Service.

Take, for instance, the woman with lung cancer who attended a support group in a wheelchair. She had given up on life, Hartog said, and had given her jewelry to her children. But a support group meeting gave her hope.

"In one week, she was out of the wheelchair. Her life changed, and she no longer felt like life was not worth living," Hartog, of suburban Boca Raton, said. "She did very well."

Hartog, 57, likes helping people understand cancer and learn to live after diagnosis and during recovery. As director of the support program, she plans monthly and bi-annual workshops to teach people about cancer and recovery. The workshops also discuss cancer prevention for those who haven't been diagnosed.

The next workshop is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Feb. 10. Speakers will discuss lymphedema, which causes swelling of the limbs and has been linked to patients who have had cancer surgery.

Hartog, who is a licensed clinical social worker, said the lymphedema program offers two workshops every year and is supported by the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

"The thing that's great about the workshops is that it's an opportunity to ask questions of health-care professionals that you may not normally have time with," Hartog said.

Hartog, who is single, didn't realize her love for helping people until she went to college after more than a decade of working in an office. In 1979, she started working toward a bachelor's degree in communications at Adelphi University in Garden City, N.Y.

A weekend session for a psychology class in the early 1980s was all she needed to change her career path.

"I remember being moved by what was unfolding in front of me," she said. "It's powerful when people unfold their lives to us."

From that moment, Hartog followed her desire to help people, but it took her until 1991 to start her master's degree in social work. She earned that degree from Adelphi in 1994 while working at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y., as a part-time coordinator for a memory disorders program.

After graduating, she added two more part-time jobs to jump-start her newfound career. She started her own practice, and she started working at a halfway house for women.

"I was very excited about the work," she said.

She worked her private therapy practice full time in 2000, but in 2003, her father died. After his death, Hartog moved to Coral Springs to be closer to her two sisters and her mother. She also started working at Ruth Rales.

She moved to suburban Boca Raton two years ago to be closer to her work.

More than a decade after her career change, Hartog is satisfied. The work she does with Ruth Rales is rewarding, she said.

"I think initially it was life affirming to work with people living with cancer... both the person living with cancer and the caregiver," she said. "I think because when confronted with an illness that has the potential to take your life you don't have time for nonsense. There's more an immediate sense."

What's the best advice anyone has ever given you?

"Be true to yourself." Her grandmother gave her that advice.

When are you most inspired?

"When I'm doing something that has an impact for the greater good."

Trish Hartog is the director of the cancer support program at Ruth Rales Jewish Family Service. She is a licensed clinical social worker and plans monthly and biannual workshops to help people understand their cancer, and how to learn to live after diagnosis and during recovery.


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