SIKESTON - Those who have cancer or know someone with the disease will tell you, support is what keeps them going.
As a patient, knowing you're not battling the illness alone and being able to share concerns and information is very comforting. For the family members, support from others provides greatly needed help.
Now, the American Cancer Society has made it even easier for individuals to get the support they so desperately need.
Beginning this month those interested have two new support groups to choose from. One of them, led by Vicki Pratt, will meet at 6 p.m. on the first Monday of every month at the Stafford Center at Tanner Street Church of God. Its first meeting was Monday.
The other group will meet its first time at 7 p.m. Oct. 23 at Wesley United Methodist Church, where they will continue to meet on the fourth Tuesday of every month.
"I think it's important because people that are diagnosed with cancer need someone that they can talk to, that they can vent with, that knows what they're going through," said the second group's facilitator, Janet Hudspeth. "You've got your family, yes, and they live with you on a daily basis but they don't know what it's like when you go for radiation or what it's like when you go for that chemo treatment. If you've got somebody else that has been through it or is going through it at the same time you are, you can talk, you can cry together, you can laugh. ... You know, you get to the point eventually that yes when your hair falls out you can laugh about it."
Both of the new groups are designed for anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer or knows someone who has been diagnosed.
There is also a support group specifically for those affected by breast cancer which has been in existence since 1999. It meets at 6:30 p.m. the first Tuesday of every month at Missouri Delta Medical Center. However, it was felt that individuals with other types of cancer needed a support group of their own.
"The group we already had has been very well attended and very successful, so obviously it is meeting a need in the community of breast cancer survivors," said Robin Stoner, cancer control specialist for the ACS's Heartland Division in Sikeston. "But there are so many cancer types and I feel a general cancer support group will be just as important to all those who are battling cancer and have no one to talk with about what to expect or what they are going through. Sometimes just listening is helpful for those who are not yet ready to discuss their own battle, and it is empowering to be able to gather information about cancer, and be around others who are surviving cancer also."
Those who have loved ones battling cancer need support just as much as the individual himself. That is why Hudspeth urges family members and friends to join one of the new support groups.
"I wanted to have this group because I just think there is a need for people to be able to visit with each other. I think back when I was diagnosed with cancer so many years ago, I guess Tom and I thought if we didn't talk about it, it was going to go away. Well guess what, it doesn't go away. I remember he kept saying Janet, we need to go buy a wig and I kept saying oh no we don't because I'm not going to lose my hair. One morning I was standing and brushing my hair and he said Janet, I think we have a problem and he told me to look at the floor behind me. As I brushed the back of my hair, it came out. So I put a scarf on my head, because we had five house guests from Illinois, went and fixed breakfast and then we went out and bought a wig. I thank God Tom didn't say to me, 'I told you we should have gotten that wig,'" she laughed.
"I was stubborn, I didn't want to face reality. But had I had somebody that I could talk to, that had gone through it or was going through it, then I would've said yes, I guess I have to face reality, my hair is going to come out.
"I think it's important because so many times people don't even want to ask some of these questions to their oncologist but if they've got somebody who's been through it or is going through it with them they feel easy about talking to them. In my group it's not going to be a formal thing where we have a formal speaker all the time. They can sit down and have a cup of coffee or a glass of tea or lemonade and just visit with each other and hear somebody else say 'I know what you're going through.'"
For more information contact the American Cancer Society at 471-1823.