Have you ever attended a support group? It doesn’t need to be about cancer. What ails you ? What about a bereavement group? An addiction group? There is Alcoholic Anonymous, Al Anon. There is a group for everything…and maybe it is something to consider. What could it hurt? I say try it! You may like it OR you may not. If you don’t like a particular group, try another or just stop going. I always say you can’t be against something if you haven’t tried it. Plus it would be an experience! As per the cartoons above, it is low cost therapy. In my case, it is no cost. It brings people together that share similar issues. I find, aside from talking to people that really understand what you are going through, there is always an opportunity to learn new things and meet some interesting people, possibly make some new friends. I find it extremely useful and although the cartoon above is meant to be funny, I really believe everyone would feel better knowing they are not alone. Believe me those chairs would only be empty if you don’t go to a support group.
I attended my second meeting of the Breast Cancer Support Group. I couldn’t attend last month as I was too ill from antibiotic poison. I was glad I was able to join this month and there were 7 of us, a couple of ladies, I had met the first time I went. The name of the group is “Women in Strength” and they told me they were celebrating 1 year of the groups’ existence last night. It is a peer support group for women affected by breast cancer led by a trained facilitator. It is a safe place to discuss the emotional, social and practical challenges of coping with a breast cancer diagnosis.
I am the only one in active cancer treatment as all of them completed their cancer treatments. There was one particular lady that had completed 4 rounds of chemo and 5 weeks of radiation a couple of months ago. Unfortunately, she sadly relayed, as positively as possible, that she just discovered a new lump under her armpit on the opposite side from her affected breast. She explained how she has to re-face her fear and go for a mammogram and ultrasound on Friday to find out if cancer has reared it’s ugly head again in her remaining breast. She told us she had a rough day and made a concerted effort to come to this group session. She was planning to celebrate completing her cancer treatment with a trip with her husband at the end of April. She is now not sure if the trip has to be put on hold or not. She also relayed challenges with securing travel insurance. We all encouraged her to just take one day at a time and see if she could still go on her trip assuming she could get the insurance. Apparently, it isn’t easy getting travel insurance after cancer. I have some homework to do and made mental note #1. #1-Find travel insurance companies that will cover cancer patients and create a list to share with the cancer community. In all seriousness, if you go on a trip, I wouldn’t worry about cancer but more about if I broke a leg from skydiving or slipping on ice cubes that would fly out of my gin and tonic while I am gyrating across the dance floor.
Many of the ladies said once treatment is completed, there is little support offered. Many said they were mentally okay during treatment and had support but found it very tough once it was done. There are side effects and emotional issues. One girl talked about being diagnosed with osteoporosis because of chemo and has to take special shots. I just listened and made mental note #2. #2- Actively seek what kind of support is available post cancer treatment.
The girls told me about a popular overnight retreat that I could go on specifically for those diagnosed with breast cancer. Apparently it is so popular the retreat is booking into 2019. It offers 2 days with special speakers and wellness activities for a very nominal cost and most of the speakers are volunteer professionals. Most said it would be better enjoyed once cancer treatment is completed. So I registered as soon as I got home and I am confirmed for next February. Long way away it seems. Cancer treatment is definitely taking longer than I expected…I am not a very patient person. I just want it done…but then I remember I have to take special drugs for 10 years.
One of the ladies talked about getting so many books from each of the specialists that was absolutely overwhelming. She got a bag of books from the surgeon, a bag of books from the medical oncologist and a bag of books from the radiation oncologist. She said it would have been helpful to have a map or some sort of sheet to help her navigate through the information. Hmmm. I thought, it probably depends, because each patient has such different treatment plans. Some have chemo, surgery then radiation. Some just have surgery and are one and done! Some have surgery, chemo, and surgery again and then radiation. Maybe the team of doctors need to provide an individual education plan for the patient so they know what is important for them to read up on. #3-Review my bag of books and see if there is any pertinent information that I missed or is more relevant now.
I also learned some other interesting tidbits. Apparently “hospices” aren’t just for people that are about to check out of this world! They actually have specialized services for those with life threatening illnesses, the people who care for them and those who are bereaved. They offer Wellness programs like yoga, art therapy, music therapy. Interesting, they actually have some sessions to work through a book called “Picking up the Pieces: Moving Forward After Surviving Cancer”. So there is some stuff available after cancer..maybe not a lot but some.
There are always pamphlets and information on a table in the foyer where we meet and there is always something interesting to pick up. For example I saw something about a “Cottage Dreams Program.” It basically offers recent cancer survivors and their loved ones a week at a private, donated cottage to celebrate recovery after completing treatment. You basically have to be out of treatment no longer than 24 months. It runs from June to December. The program is available to all Canadian cancer survivors of all ages and all cancers. Cottages are located on lakes and waterways across Ontario & Quebec. Each family can bring 6 visitors including the survivor. Wow!? I may have to check into that further.
It was well worth the hour and a half to attend this group. I am not sure I will be able to attend next month as the meeting falls on the same day as my chemo treatment. I will probably be too drowsy to attend since I will have hydrocortisone and benadryl added to the plan.
I hope I shared some interesting tidbits.
By the way, my dishwasher isn’t going to be installed til next Saturday! Unbelievable…2 weeks to get a dishwasher that is in stock, installed. The whole family has pitched in and we haven’t really minded doing the dishes. I just wanted it installed before next round as I not sure how I will feel and didn’t want to over burden my manual dishwashers.