A diagnosis of breast cancer is not a single-problem burden. It involves so many facets of a woman’s life.
A breast cancer survivor will tell you that facing the disease, searching for the best treatment and dealing with the physical aspects are only part of the story.
Every woman struck with breast cancer has feelings involving her relationship with her husband, her children and her co-workers. She may ask, “what will people say?” or “how do I reassure my kids?” or even “will my husband still find me attractive?”
Those are a few of the areas where a support group can be a real help. To know that you are not alone in your thoughts and your struggles brings an oasis of relief to a woman who may feel abandoned and hopeless.
Aileen Galley is the administrative director of the Penn State Cancer Institute of the Mounty Nittany Medical Center.
“We have an active group that meets the first Monday of every month and on any meeting night, we might have eight to 15 women attending,” Galley said.
According to Galley, the support group is an open-ended one. Persons come and go according to their own needs and schedules. Some have found help and friendship there and stayed for years. Others take from the group what they can and feel ready to move on in a few sessions.
Galley, as the facilitator, sometimes brings in lecturers. Other times the meetings turn into free-flowing discussions. From 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 4, a genetics counselor will speak to the support group.
Rio C. Stenner, from the cancer genetics program at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, will present her talk on breast cancer and genetic counseling. She received a bachelor’s degree in molecular and cellular biology from Vanderbilt University and a master’s degree in genetic counseling from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. She is board certified by the American Board of Genetic Counseling and her special interests include hereditary cancer syndromes, pediatric genetics, biochemical genetics outreach and education.
Friends and family members are welcome to attend. For more information, contact Galley at (814) 234-6787 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Cancer Institute is particularly proud of its Cancer Resource Center — a lovely room, and a gift from Lady Lion Basketball. The space boasts four computers for visitors to use, all sorts of cancer information, American Cancer Society materials and contacts and a light, attractive area for relaxing conversation. Volunteers are present to help people find what they’re looking for, or direct them to treatment or consultation rooms.
The center is enabling the institute to hire a dedicated trained health navigator such as an RN or social worker to step in at the time of diagnosis and guide a patient through the process of treatment and recovery.
Carol Hodes attends the breast cancer support group. She said that support groups are a good source of information and a way to stay updated about activities for survivors.
“Often we are updated about research and new treatment methods. I had been with a group in another part of the state just after I was diagnosed. Interacting with the group members was reassuring as I faced additional surgery. The Mount Nittany Medical Center has been very active with speakers on topics such as nutrition and exercise therapy,” Hodes said.
Amanda Richards has been attending the group since March 2012 after being diagnosed in February 2012.
“It was very helpful to hear from others who have also gone through treatment. The doctors can’t tell you everything and I got lots of useful advice from the group members about how they felt physically going through surgery and treatment,” Richards said.
Richards speaks with newer members because she wants to be there for women who are just starting on this path because the group was there for her.
Diane Crebs, who has only been attending meetings for a few months, said she saw an announcement in the paper and at first the times didn’t work for her with her business schedule. Then one day she had a cancellation and she went.
“It’s on my calendar each month now. I’ve found everyone in the group to be supportive. I have been out of treatment for 10 years,” Crebs said. “Once you’ve had cancer, it never completely goes away. It is nice to be there for other women who need the support. I wish there had been a group when I was first diagnosed.”