(Beaumont Hospital, Orig. published http://www.beaumont.edu/news-story-beaumont-health-system-route-2-recovery-sharing-and-caring, Ferndale 115 News April 1, 2012 ed.)
Some people dare not discuss nose hair, let alone laugh about it. However, Cathy Ringey of Ferndale jokes about the lack of it with women in a support group for those with metastatic breast cancer. “Nobody understands quite like they do,” she says. “At the group, we can joke about things, like our nose constantly running after losing all of our hair, including our nasal hair – it drips all the time.”
In December 2009, Cathy made an appointment to see her family doctor because she was not feeling well and having a difficult time breathing. After having several medical tests and a mammogram, she was quickly referred to a breast oncologist at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak. Cathy, a 58-year-old, mother of three, was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. It had already spread to her liver and lungs.
While Cathy was at a follow-up doctor’s appointment, she noticed a Sharing & Caring brochure with information about a new support group. Despite her husband and children’s support, finding women to talk to who truly understand the diagnosis and treatment plan was proving to be difficult. Cathy decided to attend, hoping to meet others who may have comparable experiences.
Beaumont Health System’s Sharing & Caring program is a patient-driven volunteer network committed to helping breast cancer survivors. It offers peer-to-peer counseling, group support, education and hosts special events for cancer survivors and their families.
“The support group allows us to be in an environment where we freely say things in front of others. We share our stories, learn about each other’s treatments and talk about how we cope,” she says. “Everybody is at a different point in their journey.”
Cathy, who loves to vacation, explains the women she met in the support group encouraged her to continue to travel. And so she did, off to white water raft at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and a motorcycle trip west on Route 2 to Glacier National Park.
While Cathy continues on her journey, she finds comfort in attending the Metastatic Breast Cancer group.
“Often women with stage 4 breast cancer feel unable to talk about the unique challenges they face,” says Lorelei Diguglielmo, supervisor, Sharing & Caring program. “This support group is designed to meet very specific needs of women who have advanced or metastatic breast cancer or have been diagnosed with a recurrence of breast cancer. It is a safe arena for them to discuss whatever is on their mind.”
The next metastatic support group will be held on Tuesday, March 13 from 7 to 9 p.m. at Beaumont Cancer Center, 3577 W. 13 Mile Road, Royal Oak. Participants must register at classes.beaumont.edu or call 248-551-8585.
Cathy remains positive, even with her most recent re-occurrence of cancer, which has spread to the brain.
“Complaining and whining won’t do me any good,” she says. “I’m just going to keep on going and planning more vacations.”
Her next trip is to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.