The Support You Need | Dee Sparacio
When I was in chemotherapy treatment in 2005, I was seated next to many different men and women with cancer. We chatted and shared magazines and book recommendations but not one woman I spoke to had a gynecologic cancer diagnosis. I really wanted to find other women who could relate to what I was going through—the early menopause, fatigue, joint pain, neuropathy and hair loss.
A few months later I saw a brochure for the Cancer Hope Network (CHN) in my doctor’s waiting room. The CHN matches cancer patients with trained volunteers with a similar cancer experience. I gave them a call and was matched with a stage 3 ovarian cancer survivor. It is hard to explain how relieved I felt when I spoke to her. She remembered how tired she was when she was in treatment and how hard it was to have the treatment schedule take over her life. I felt the same way. She had a child so she understood my worry about my cancer’s impact on my children’s lives. She told me about getting back to normal after treatment and how she was disease free. I hung up the phone thinking I can be like her. I can survive this. I was so happy to have found someone who had walked in my shoes.
After attending the LiveSTRONG Survivors Summit in the fall of 2006, I returned home with a plan to help form a monthly support group at my cancer center. I spoke to my gynecologic-oncologists and the social work department and with their support the Gynecologic Cancer Support Group was formed. In our group, facilitated by a social worker, we share our concerns. We share advice about how to alleviate the side effects we experience. We talk about waiting for test results and the anxiety we feel around scan time. We laugh. Sometimes we shed tears and offer hugs and tissues. And we celebrate when we become disease free. I have learned about brachytherapy and radiation from the endometrial cancer survivors in the group. And I have learned how to deal with neuropathy from a breast/ovarian cancer survivor. Support groups work for me but I know they are not for everyone.
But you can get the support you need.
• Ask your oncologist or social worker for a list of support groups in your area.
• Call an organization such as Cancer Hope Network or Imerman Angels for peer one-on-one support.
• Join one of the online support groups moderated by a gynecologic cancer organization.
• Check for cancer support organizations like the Cancer Support Community in your area.
Remember you are not alone.
Every Day is a Blessing!