When my friend Mara felt a lump in her right breast in April 2019, her first reaction was panic. She got on the phone with me right away and asked me to come with her to the doctor.
After a few days of anxious waiting, we received confirmation that it was breast cancer. As I sat beside Mara outside the doctor’s office, I could see her whole spirit deflating.
I wasn’t sure how to help her, so I suggested we look for breast cancer support groups that she can join. Maybe if she connects with other people going through the same thing, she would feel less helpless and overwhelmed.
We found one at the Women’s Cancer Resource Center, and Mara began her support group meetings.
Her group met weekly in a community center. The women in the group were a mix of people in recovery and people still going through their treatments. They gave her a joyful welcome. Despite her reluctance to share her thoughts, Mara eventually warmed up and began to open up to the group.
Little by little, she gathered the courage to share her feelings of anger, fear, and hopelessness. As she became closer to the other people in her group, she finally understood that she was not alone in her journey.
The women shared their own experiences of coming to terms with their diagnosis, and Mara felt a deep kinship with them as they did. Over the next few months, her life was filled with chemotherapy sessions and trips to the doctor. But because of the support group, Mara developed some coping skills and a positive attitude.
She learned how to practice mindfulness to keep her calm and centered. She learned how to let go of her anger and focus on nurturing her mental and emotional health. She also learned how to let go of negative thoughts that dwell far into the future and focus on managing her cancer on a day-to-day basis instead.
The support group also proved to be a valuable source of information. Mara learned so much about dealing with the effects of chemotherapy, what foods to eat, what to expect at every stage.
Her support group leader, Stacy, was a Stage 3 survivor. She shared so much information that helped Mara as she struggled through the early stages of exploring her treatment options and medications.
Everything she learned in the group helped improve communication with her healthcare provider. Thus, she was able to ask the right questions and manage her treatment protocol better.
I was thrilled to see her taking charge of her life in such a brave and purposeful way. Joining the support group helped her in a way that we, her friends and family, couldn’t. With something as huge as breast cancer, that kind of help and fellowship can only come from others sharing the same experience.
If you’ve gotten a breast cancer diagnosis and are unsure of what to do next, take heart in knowing that you’re not alone. You can look for a support group through cancer resource centers (for Northern California), by asking your health care provider’s office, or by searching online.
Written by ZBC Volunteer Ruth Riley
Ruth Riley is an educator and writer. By utilizing her expertise in teaching and writing, she wishes to educate more people about health and wellness. Ruth also loves the sciences, diagnostic imaging in particular. She is also a writer for W-Radiology.com and CBDClinicals.com.