When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I spent the first month in total turmoil. I was so upset and felt like a fish floundering out of water! At the suggestion of one of the nurses at my doctor’s office, I heard about a support group for women with cancer. Hopefully, you can learn from me and understand why support groups are so important. I live in the Santa Cruz area, and the group is called “Womencare.” I had only been involved in a support group once before many, many years ago. I am not one to usually seek out groups. However, in this case, I thought maybe I could learn something or maybe someone could guide me through this horrible ordeal. I was scared to death, and needed as much support as I could get. We had just moved 60 miles from where we had lived for 37 years, and we had not made any new friends yet. So I decided to give the support group a try. I was pretty apprehensive at first just because I am not used to sharing the details of my struggles.
My reservations stemmed from the fact that, first of all, I would have to drive from our home to Santa Cruz, which was about 60 miles round trip. The meetings were held on Tuesdays from 12:30P.M. until 2:00P.M. I talked it over with my husband, and he really encouraged me to join. He really felt like I needed help. We decided we would try to combine trips and make appointments on that day so we would only have to drive into Santa Cruz one day a week if possible. Also, the commitment was for 6 months. Since I had barely started my journey, I was not sure I could make that commitment. But I decided to give it a try. If all else failed, I could drop out, although I am not one to quit something once I make a commitment! Second, I was a little afraid that I would not fit in. I have always struggled with that, and that is probably why I do not seek out groups. My fears on that level were unfounded!
I showed up for the first week. I was a little shy, but soon discovered there was no reason to be. Everyone there was fighting their own unique battle. No two people ever experience CANCER in the same way. However, there are some common threads and a wealth of information from women who have traveled the path before, even if only a few weeks or months before. Within a few weeks, I actually looked forward to going to these meetings. They were about the only thing that seemed normal. The other thing I learned was that there were women there in much worse shape than myself. When you hear someone else’s story, it really makes you GRATEFUL that you have been handed the deck you have been handed. I soon learned that my journey was not going to be even close to easy, but it was not nearly as hard as some.
Through the weeks and months that followed, I did have some setbacks and I did miss some meetings. The meetings I missed were for health reasons, like when my white blood cell count was extremely low. One is advised to stay home and away from EVERYONE under those circumstances. Extremely low white blood cell count can make one vulnerable to infections, so it is very important to heed the warning. Someone with cancer and extremely low white blood cell count can die if they get an infection. Your body does not have the resources to fight the infection. It can take weeks for the blood cell count to return to a safe level. I also did make it through the 6 month commitment. I also decided to join another group for another 6 months after that.
Here is my advice to anyone that has been recently diagnosed with any kind of cancer. If you can find a support group in your area, consider joining. Like I said before, there are other women that have been on this journey before you. In my group, there were several women who had fought this battle two or three times! Even though that is scary to hear, it can be a reality. The wealth of information these women have to offer can ease some of the stress. And believe me, this diagnosis is loaded with stress. But just knowing you are not alone really helps the human spirit. We all looked forward to these groups. We could bare our souls here and knew that we would not be judged or criticized or put down. We were all in basically the same boat! Sometimes, if one of us was really struggling, someone would have a solution to help ease our pain. Sometimes, just being able to share our fears was a great relief. This was a place where we could dump. Your family gets so sick of hearing about CANCER every minute of every day. Many of us became friends. We checked on each other, we sometimes saw each other at the doctor before chemo, and we even went out to lunch several times after the meetings. I cannot stress enough how much this womanhood helped me through the transitions that I faced all along the way. I was so very thankful for the support and knowledge that I gained, that I have made a pledge. If I manage to make a minimal sum of money from this site, I am going to donate to this organization. It is basically a charity and no one pays to attend. The organization is only 5 years old, and is struggling. I do not want to see it disappear. It has helped numerous women over those 5 years.