Breast Cancer Survivors Connect in The Woodlands

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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. 

pinkhatsandgloves.jpgEvery 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.

Restoring hearts
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. 

Many of the same volunteers who helped said they found the experience just as rewarding as the ladies did. We had new volunteers, too, many from our new MD Anderson medical oncology staff and from St. Luke's The Woodlands Hospital. It was clear that the ladies felt so special and that's what we wanted to achieve. It's what they deserved.

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.

Join us
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.


We are fortunate to have Dr. Schlembach as our facilitator for our support group. She provides unlimited resources to help educate us and guides us along our way. Her time is very much appreciated.

This is a phenomenal group of ladies that I am glad to be a part of. I look forward to our monthly meetings to gather with my friends. It is a place to feel connected and be connected with others that understand the road you are on or come from. This is what Breast Friends is all about.

Angela | February 24, 2011 6:10 PM
Hi Dr. Schlembach,

I’m sorry to just now be sending this, but I wanted to thank you so much for the wonderful “Pamper me night”. I really appreciate all the hard work by you, Tara, Heather, and all the volunteers that went into making it so nice. After our long, hard journeys with cancer, it feels so great to be pampered and to have others make us feel so special.

Thank you for all you do for our group!

Take care,

Angela Rice

This was a wonderful event with fun, treats and friendship for all !
Our own Dr. Pam surpassed herself with the lovely caring professionals whom she had recruited to share their talents with all the women there. Another memorable night of meeting, sharing and just having a great time!!
Thank you Dr. are a blessing to each and every lady in the group. So glad you are our leader and mentor ...!!

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