Not long after I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, I received a packet of information from the cancer center outlining all their various support programs for patients and survivors.
Thumbing through the pages, I discovered I now qualified for all sorts of things from free yoga and massages (sweet!) to makeup classes for chemo patients without eyebrows and eyelashes (eh).
And of course, there was a slew of support groups–general cancer support, caregiver support, prostate cancer support–the list went on and on. I noted there was even a group for young women with breast cancer and mentally made plans to attend once I had some time to wrap my mind around everything.
But as my diagnosis set in and treatment began in earnest, I found no shortage of excuses for skipping the monthly meetings. I was tired. I felt bad. My kid was sick. I had to work late.
Truthfully, my social anxiety was the main culprit keeping me from showing up. So I was thrilled when a friend invited me to join a private support group for breast cancer patients on Facebook. Through this forum, I found the means to connect with others with similar struggles without the awkwardness or time commitment of an in-person group.
I’m still a member of that group today, although sometimes I think about leaving it or at the very least hiding it.
Don’t get me wrong–it’s a fabulous group. The women are truly amazing and inspiring and so kind and supportive. It has been a valuable resource for me, and I’ve even invited others to join.
But there’s a certain level of harsh reality in a group based on a health affliction. Sometimes things don’t go well. Sometimes people die. And when they die of the disease you all have, it’s really scary.
Just this month, one member who had a full response to chemo and was moving on with her life found out her cancer has metastasized all over her body. She’s currently receiving end-stage care. She’s also my age.
Even the friend who invited me to the group had a recent scare with some mysteriously broken bones. After a bone scan she thankfully got the all-clear, but it was another reminder that I can never let down my guard.
Even though it frightens me sometimes, I will stay in the group. I can take breaks for my sanity, but just like I know I can never fully put cancer in my rear view, I can’t let these women go.