By Pamela Schlembach, M.D., MD Anderson Regional Care Center in The Woodlands
A cancer journey is a very personal and profound experience for both patient and physician.
Every day, as a radiation oncologist at the MD Anderson Regional Care Center in The Woodlands, I walk this journey with patients. But I'm also the facilitator of a large independent breast cancer support group called "Breast Friends." Many of the ladies in the group are my patients or former patients, but not all of them. As the largest breast cancer support group in the county, the ladies may be treated at the many hospitals in the area, but they all have much in common.
Last Wednesday, on a cold and drizzly evening, some 50 breast cancer patients and survivors found warmth, hope, support and love at Breast Friends' second annual "Pamper Me Night" at MD Anderson. With local businesses providing prizes, giveaways, dinner and sweet treats, the ladies were treated to free facials, massages, manicures and TLC, all under soft spa-like lights and with aromatherapy in the air.
The idea of Pamper Me Night came to me during one of our regular monthly meetings when the ladies were discussing Valentine's Day. In the course of discussion, a few of the women shared how the holiday no longer had special meaning to them. Some shared of loves lost during their illness, while others shared their loss of inner confidence and outer beauty. It was heartbreaking to hear this, and I had to do something.
I asked for donations for this event from staff members and local businesses and all were generous with gifts, time and talent. It was a huge success.
Supporting each other year 'round
These special ladies are a source of inspiration to each other and to me personally and professionally. In less than a year, we have grown to a membership of more than 100. I have changed the format of the monthly meetings to take advantage of MD Anderson's many resources, including terrific speakers on the latest treatments and the many wonderful local resources in Montgomery County.
The meetings, which are open to any breast cancer patient or survivor, include an educational component in the first hour followed by support time when the women break into small groups. Speakers and discussion topics cover such things as hormones, diet, sexuality, body image exercise, cardiac disease, and what is new in treatment and research.
We also have special events throughout the year. In October, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we had an evening of celebrating life and health. This year, St. Luke's The Woodlands Hospital radiology staff brought dessert and had us all doing the pink glove dance (see the photo) and parading in pink hats.
Breast Friends The Woodlands meets on the second Wednesday of each month, 7:00-9:00 p.m., at St Luke's The Woodlands Hospital, near the corner of Highway 242 and I-45, where the MD Anderson Regional Care Center in The Woodlands is located. We meet in the beautiful first floor conference rooms overlooking the lake. For more information call 713-563-0050, option 1 or 2.
If you know of anyone in Montgomery County, Texas, who has had breast cancer and is looking for a group like no other, please let them know we are here for them.
This group of ladies of all ages and all stages of breast cancer has been in existence for more than 14 years. Some have just been diagnosed, while others are 15-year survivors. I have been facilitator of the group since July 2009 and while I was reluctant at first to take on another commitment, Breast Friends has become something very inspiring in my life.