One of the bonuses I never expected as a cancer survivor was to meet and find a whole new family.
I am single and most of my family is scattered all over the country. However, I am fortunate to be a part of several other families, who are my support group. They are more than casual friends I go to dinner with. They are people I depend on to be there when I need them. I laugh, cry, socialize and spend holidays with them. Because of my friends I am never alone on a holiday.
Some of them are people I shared a career with. Others are college friends I lived with in the dormitory. I meet with friends in a book club every month, where I share my innate love of books and reading. I have deaf friends who have supported me through losing my hearing.
My church family is incredible and I never enter the building without feeling their prayers, support and warm embrace.
I even have a support group with my dog friends. It was my veterinarian and her staff who took care of my dog after surgery, because I had steps at home and she could not be with me. I have other friends who bring food for me after chemo, when I am too tired to cook or go out. It is my friends who have accompanied me to doctor appointments and helped me through good and bad times. I have neighbors who check on me and help me with groceries and packages when I am too weak to carry them.
I have another wonderful and precious support group I never expected. When I was first diagnosed with cancer, my oncologist was very cold and unemotional. Her nurse was even worse and obviously didn’t care about the patients at all. I quickly switched to another warm and supportive oncologist. She is one of those rare people who take the journey along with every one of her patients. I asked her one time how she kept from burning out. Her answer was incredible as she explained she had a higher power who gave her that strength and caring. I couldn’t be on this difficult cancer journey without her, and would have given up a long time ago. Her staff is all special too. The people at the front desk are always encouraging and friendly under the barrage of patients they see daily. Her nurses follow me every day of my chemo for five days straight, and help me if I do not feel well. They are anxious after each one of my bone marrows to see if the cancer is in remission or not.
The vena puncture people are always gentle, and know me by name. The other patients in the waiting room have a story they want to share. The head nurse is a warm and caring person and always takes the time to stop and say hello. I often joke with her that I have never seen her sit down!
I am on a Patient Advisory Council for the hospital where I am receiving treatment. I have met with the bravest and most inspirational people in the world. These wonderful volunteers have fought cancer for years, and still take their precious time and energy to be on the committee. The hospital is in the middle of planning an exciting new cancer center, and truly wants the input of the patients. Through this committee, I have met several people from the administration. I am impressed by all the time and effort they put into giving patients the very best of care. They are there from early morning to late at night.
I belong to a local YMCA which sponsors the Live Strong program .I have met some fabulous people there, including my trainer who works with people recovering from chemo and has become a good friend. The two nutritionists are also special and have taught me a lot about reading food labels and diets. As a result of this type of care, I try to reach out and encourage others who have cancer. I enjoy meeting with other survivors in the group and hearing their stories too. We all support each other through good times and bad.
Through my articles in Cure Today I have met even more cancer survivors and have become Facebook friends with courageous survivors all over the country.
I felt so alone when I found out I have cancer.I am convinced that the people who work with cancer survivors feel it is not a job – but a way of life.They tell me constantly that I am family to them.Otherwise how could I get through this?It is family who help each other though good and bad times and they really do!