Power of Seven
It's not the "seven" that is important. It is the group that matters. Whether a support group has three or seven or ten members, the bonds and support and understanding and, yes, love are unique. As many of you know, I am a huge fan of good support groups and facilitate five: one for women newly diagnosed or in adjuvant treatment for breast cancer, two for women who have completed breast cancer treatment, one for women with Stage IV breast cancer, and one for women with GYN cancers. They are different, one from another, but they are surely more alike than not. Remember the opening line of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina: Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
I think that applies to support groups, too. Through the years, I have had a few experiences of unhappy groups--that is, groups that didn't work well for a range of reasons. Those are very rare exceptions. Instead, my groups are filled with marvelous women who bond with and help one another in extraordinary ways.In my office, I have a small model of a lighthouse, given to me by a wonderful woman who came to one of my breast cancer groups some years ago. She described the group as being her lighthouse, the beacon in a storm, guiding her towards safe shelter and home.
Here is a favorite and very poignant example: Some years ago, there was a young woman in my metastatic group who was told by her doctor that it was time for hospice. She lived alone, and her family was in Vermont. However, she had lived in Boston for many years, had a wide circle of loving friends here, and wanted to stay in her own home. The group made that possible. Taking leadership of the project, they worked with other friends to create a schedule of two people home with her at all times. One was always someone from the group, and the second was either another group member or a friend from some other context. Their incredible brave and generous care made it possible for her to stay at home for the remainder of her life.
Fortunately, that kind of support is rarely needed. What is vital, and what we have in spades in every group at every meeting, is connection at a soulful level, stout hearts, endless generosity of spirit--and lots of laughter.
Here is a marvelous essay from the New York Times about a Group of Seven:
Living With Cancer: We Are Seven
By SUSAN GUBAR It is our luck that we are seven women grappling with various stages and types of
gynecological cancer in a small group that no one in his or her right mind would want to join.
We live in a town that boasts no program or facility to bring us together. Our group happened to happen. Patricia and Mary introduced themselves after a presentation I gave with my oncologist, who is also their doctor. Alison read a notice in the local newspaper and sent me an e-mail asking if we might correspond. Such was the start, as these three contacted three others -- Diane, Judy and Sarah -- and we began to meet every few weeks in a restaurant or at one of our homes. And oh the difference to me!
The elation of gathering with people who also confront the perplexities of cancer and its treatments has something to do with our being anomalies outside the group -- but not inside it. Among my healthy colleagues and friends, I am the one singled out with a lethal disease. Inside the group, though, we are all normal, even though "normal" means dealing with a dire diagnosis and treatments, in the past or the present.
To read more: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/04/living-with-cancer-we-are-seven/