Women Helping Women
One of the most gratifying parts of my work is interacting with the community of women who share (unfortunately) breast cancer. It is a cliche to comment that this is a sisterhood that none of us wanted to join--but cliches are over-worked because they are the truth. The ways that we reach out to and support one another are invaluable.
I have been thinking about this today as I responded to an email from a woman, who is a patient at our hospital, but whom I have never met. She has completed her chemotherapy for breast cancer and will soon have a mastectomy with reconstruction. She wrote to me to ask if there were women who had undergone the same kind of surgery that she anticipates who would be willing to speak with her. We all know that, whatever the situation, we hear something different from other patients than we do from our doctors, and many of us have learned to rely on this shared wisdom.
I maintain a number of Listservs of women who have attended my support groups, currently participate in a group, or just want to be part of an information list and hear about new research or conference opportunities. Deleting any identifying information, I sent an email with her request to the appropriate Listservs. WIthin an hour, I had heard back from almost a dozen women. They offered to write to her, speak with her, meet her for coffee and show her their reconstruction. This is wonderful and not one bit unusual. When I sent out a similar request about a week ago, the result was a lunch date that did end with "show and tell". After that connection, I described it to the newer patient's surgeon who said:"That's great, and it is so irritating to me that women are always so much nicer than men." We both laughed and knew that it is not entirely true, but, in this world of breast cancer, we can count on it.
Any one of us would welcome a call at 2:00 AM from a frightened woman who has just learned her diagnosis. We would do anything that we could to soothe and comfort her and would share everything that we have learned along the way.
If you are reading this and thinking that you would like to be in touch with another woman who has gone through a similar experience, please feel free to contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org. I, with the help of our community, will make it happen.