Breast Cancer Month
A special kind of cancer support
Our week long look at issues related to breast cancer continues here at Newsradio 620 WTMJ. Today we focus on a distinct support group that avoids a group setting and focuses on one-to-one relationships instead. The group is called ABCD, or After Breast Cancer Diagnosis.
ABCD was the vision of former WTMJ-TV news anchor Melodie Wilson. "She realized that talking to other breast cancer survivors and really learning from each other, was something that was missing from her own experience." Wilson eventually died from the disease but the group's current Executive Director Ginny Finn tells me that's why ABCD matches breast cancer mentors and participants for one-to-one phone chats. It's a form of support not offered elsewhere.
Mary Reine of Brookfield started as a participant in 2006 and is now a mentor. She described the ease of the conversation in a more intimate setting, "Is this normal and many other physical things that you would not want to bring up in front of a lot of people."
Kathy Congleton of Brookfield also started her time with ABCD as a participant after being diagnosed in 2004. Today she's a mentor, "I had something to share with people who were probably in shock."
Finn says the matching process for participants and mentors is pretty incredible, "You are matched with someone who not only has your diagnosis, your treatment plan, but also as close as possible, has the same life circumstances."
The women say it was obvious they were partnered with people for a purpose. "The minute I met my mentor I knew exactly why they did that," says Congleton.
Reine adds, "Any of the fears that I had, any of the concerns... I could bring up with her. And then I could be normal with my husband and with my children. And I did not have to show then fear or concern. I could just be mom."
Congleton has even recruited her husband Jack into action. He's gone through training to be a mentor for friends and family of the people going through breast cancer. He says they deal with an entirely different set of issues, "Breast cancer surgery can be disfiguring and I think men can have fears as to how they may respond."
Finn told me new research is validating what ABCD does in the one-on-one setting. The studies she mention show it reduces recovery time and the number of reoccurrence of illness, "it is about being compassionate, but it's also about keeping you healthy."
She says ABCD may eventually help set up other groups that would use similar techniques to support people with other diseases or illnesses.
Reine says now she mentors other women to make something positive out of her cancer battle, "You can get better, stronger, and more whole... if that makes sense. You might be missing a part, but you are more whole as a person."
Finn says, "We look forward to a day when we go out of business, when there is no more breast cancer. But until then, we've got lots of work to do."