The page on my calendar had turned to November 2017. It was time to start planning for the holidays, which, in my family, is a season of great celebration filled with joy and laughter, chilly days spent baking, shopping, and decorating, and time spent with family and friends.
However, that holiday season would be different. I had my annual mammogram that month and a small mass was found that turned out to be Stage 1 breast cancer. A surgery date was scheduled for the week of Christmas. I was numb. It was the holidays. How could I tell friends and family that I had cancer at this time of year? In addition, I was the person who usually was taking care of others. I thought I could cope with my diagnosis initially with only the help of my husband, and I decided not to tell anyone until my surgery was completed.
Thankfully, surgery went well; that was my Christmas present. It was time to tell other family members and friends about my cancer.
Some were upset that I hadn’t told them sooner, but some treated me with cautious optimism. As long as I was walking and “looking okay,” everyone assumed I was fine. I wasn’t. I needed help, but I found it difficult to ask for it.
On my final day of radiation, I rang the bell, signifying the end of my treatment. But it also signified the end of four months of my medical team being in contact with me several times a week to check on my progress, asking if I had any questions and if I was doing okay, and telling me what to expect next. The phone stopped ringing. No more ongoing appointments were scheduled. Now what? I felt alone, and all the emotions that I had kept to myself were starting to surface.
During an appointment in radiation oncology, I read a Cancer Support Community newsletter and noticed the organization offered a wide array of programs, including a breast cancer support group, nutrition classes, a book club, and meditation – all of which interested me. A few days later, I saw a segment on television about Cancer Support Community. I decided to call. It was a decision that changed my outlook and my life.
I attended my first breast cancer support meeting, confident that I would be able to get through it without shedding a tear when it was time for me to tell my story. I wanted to show I was strong. I was wrong. Sitting among a group of amazing, resilient and compassionate women who had undergone their own unique breast cancer journeys, I felt empowered to share my story. And my pent-up emotions came pouring out.
The others patiently listened, and I received advice and information that only can be exchanged among women who have endured a similar experience. Most importantly, I developed sincere friendships that continue to flourish.
The support group has provided so much comfort and hope. Knowing that I’m not the only one who feels this way helps me make it through each day. I’ve met people I know will be my friends for the rest of our lives. We’re there for each other when one of us gets depressed or has a bad day. And we share in each other’s happiness and joyful times.
When I attend other programs and events at Cancer Support Community, I know my physical, emotional and spiritual well-being will be enriched. During the Cooking for Wellness classes, not only do participants learn to prepare nutritious meals, but it’s also a venue to share meal ideas with other cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers. The monthly book club meetings are 60-minutes of mentally stimulating, thought-provoking conversations, while the Qigong and meditation classes are relaxing and spiritually uplifting.
During my cancer journey, it was easy to slip into a dark hole and feel depressed, anxious, and even question my purpose in life. Now I have a life filled with hope and live each day to its fullest. I have Cancer Support Community to thank for that.
An Update from Trish:
The holidays are upon us once again and I’m glad to report that my first-year post-surgery tests and exam were all good! I continue to attend the support group and other programs at Cancer Support Community that have been so helpful throughout my cancer journey.
On behalf of all my fellow participants at Cancer Support Community, thank you for your support. Your gifts mean that all the programs the organization offers will continue to be offered at no cost, so anyone impacted by cancer can find the support they need to improve their quality of life. You are helping to make a real difference for each one of us. Thank you!