Support Group

Tonight I finally had an opportunity to attend a breast cancer support group meeting.

I was a little nervous. I wasn’t sure I’d fit in.  Even though I know it’s silly, a part of me feels as though because my cancer was a relatively “innocent cancer” and my treatment was “easy” compared to what it could have been, I have nothing to complain about and therefore no need for a support group.  I have no business being in the room with women who have had to endure mastectomies and/or chemo on top of radiation.

Now don’t yell at me.  I know it’s silly. I think it’s what is called survivor’s guilt (which is a topic of a  future support group meeting.)  I often feel as though I don’t fit in – no matter what I’m doing, whether it be at school, in a group of Army wives, or a motorcycle poker run for breast cancer.  Why would a cancer support group be any different? (In case you were wondering, a healthy self esteem has never been one of my strong suits.  And yes the cancer just made it even lower.)

So, I was prepared to go to this meeting and hide in the corner – my seat of choice at most new events. And when I walked in, my first thought was indeed ” I did not belong!” As I looked around the room at the other women there I noticed  most of them seemed to be  in various stages of chemo treatment, with various stages of hair loss.  As I stood in  line waiting for my turn to sign in, I couldn’t help but over hear the conversations about unilateral/bilateral mastectomies and reconstructive surgeries.  So  I stood there will my full head of hair and both my original breasts (even if one of them is still mis-shapened and swollen) my stomach sinking, wondering if there was  I way I could just sneak out.

Then a nice young woman, with a ball cap over her just beginning to grow in hair, turned to me, introduced herself and the other ladies standing in line. The women next to her invited me to sit at their table.  So I took a deep breath, smiled and thought “well, just maybe.”

Maybe I should add a section to my Life Celebration List – do more things outside my comfort zone. But that’s a discussion for another post.  I’m glad I went even though tonight’s topic – breast cancer genetics – was one on which I’ve already done quite a bit of research. I still learned a few things, but the best part was being with the other survivors.  The positive energy in the room was amazing.  Everyone was in different stages of treatment – some just beginning others celebrating many years of survival.  Next month, the topic will be Sharing and Support – a chance for us to share our stories and offer support for others. And though I’m still feeling survivor’s guilt – a support group meeting will be the perfect time to find out how others have dealt with that. I’m sure I’m not the only one to feel this way.

There’s another reason I’m glad I went tonight.  Since the radiation treatments ended I’ve been struggling to figure out what is normal for me.  I do the monthly self exams – no – I do the daily self exams – that may be TMI, but I don’t want to be caught off guard.  The problem is that I have no idea what is normal.  Nothing feels as it did before the surgeries. That’s to be expected, but I just don’t know what I should be concerned about and what is no big deal.  I thought the swelling would go away after radiation, but it hasn’t. My BCN (breast care navigator) was there tonight. She took one look at me and told me I needed to contact the surgeon.  Apparently, if she can see how lopsided I am with my clothes on, then something is not as it should be.  So here we go with yet another doctor’s appointment.

It’s not as though I thought it was over the day I rang the bell on my last day of radiation.  After all, as the surgeon said on my first visit with him, it’s a marathon, not a speed race.

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