No one should face breast cancer alone

Sometimes the best medicine is a kind word, a hug or just knowing that someone is there for you. When breast cancer strikes, receiving support from family and friends is not enough.  Connecting with others who have gone through the same experience can feel like the difference between day and night. No one should go through breast cancer alone.

At BCIEA Wellness House, our Breast Cancer Survivors Support Group aka BCSSG is gaining ground as an important component of our programme. BCSSG meets once a month and it is one of the most popular activities of our programme although it is not yet developed to where we envision it to be.

Having the support of others is an important part of breast cancer survivorship. Research shows that taking part in support groups, where you both give and receive help, is an effective way to reduce the anxiety and stress that can come with breast cancer diagnosis.

Our BCSSG provides information and education from the participants themselves or from professionals. For example, those who have had treatment share what to expect from chemotherapy or radiotherapy and tips on how to cope with treatment. 

The professional clarifies the shared information to ensure accuracy. Hands-on-lessons takes place with diet and nutrition using our homegrown produce from our Wellness Garden; simple nutritious recipes are prepared and tasted—this has yielded positive results as women practice learned skills and improve their cooking and eating habits. Some survivors have even started their own small kitchen gardens in their homes.

The group enjoys its favourite physical activity: practising a range of motion, stretching, and dancing and low impact exercise. The women are reminded of the importance of regular physical activity as being good for many reasons, not only to reduce the risk of breast cancer at initiation and recurrence but also to improve physical functioning, quality of life and cancer-related fatigue.                   

Current research shows that exercise helps maintain a healthy weight, strengthens bones and muscles, reduces type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome, improves the ability to do daily activities and improves mental health and mood. Exercise also decreases treatment-related symptoms and increases the quality of life.

Survivors gain emotional and spiritual support by encouraging them to share. The sharing is useful for those who are willing and are comfortable to express their feelings and fears about breast cancer in a group setting. 

People reach this stage at different times in their recovery or never do and that’s okay. Some survivors are more comfortable talking one-on-one with a counsellor, and we provide it. Yet others prefer to keep their feelings to themselves or may share them only with close family and friends.

We pay attention to everyone’s different needs and we strive to serve them at their own level. Our meetings recognise the importance of the spiritual aspect and we allow praise and prayer during our monthly meetings.

All activities provided for BCSSG play a role in the healing process after the diagnosis of breast cancer. BCIEA plans to expand because no one support group is right for everyone. Support groups should be able to meet the needs of specific groups such as the following:

Certain stage dealing with breast cancer;

Those undergoing chemotherapy/radiotherapy;

On-line group end of life, grieving.

Men dealing with breast cancer who face unique challenges and may need in-person support.  Our male breast cancer survivors have been meeting with their female counterparts. I believe those who are fearful or stigmatised might come out if they knew a male breast cancer survivor support group existed somewhere.

Research suggests that social support is important and can improve quality of life, our experience shows that our women are thriving and our BCSSG is making a difference in our community. #breastcanceriseverybodysbusiness

You can support BCSSG by contacting: bciearwanda@gmail.com                                                                                         

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