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November 2007 Issue

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Surgeon's Young Survivor Group Offers a Fun, Holistic Way to 'Move On' After Battling Breast Cancer

By Amanda Harper
Published November 2007

Breast cancer is no longer primarily a postmenopausal woman’s disease.

With advances in early detection and enhanced awareness, more women are being diagnosed with breast cancer earlier than ever before. But that early diagnosis comes with a lifetime of worry about recurrence and specific concerns related to younger women: intimacy, future childbirth and personal wellbeing.

Many young breast cancer survivors are seeking strategies and support to help move on with the rest of their lives.

Now a new young breast cancer survivors group can help them do just that, focusing not just on physical healing but on holistic emotional and spiritual healing for life after breast cancer.

Jennifer Manders, MD, a UC breast surgeon, decided to organize a support group for women under 45 when her younger breast cancer patients repeatedly told her they wanted—and needed—a way to come together with other women facing the same challenges.

So she facilitated a supportive communication network to help women deal with their diagnosis through shared experiences.

“This isn’t your typical support group,” explains Manders. “We don’t dwell on the nitty-
gritty issues surrounding cancer diagnosis. We’re focused on the unique emotional, physical and spiritual healing needs of younger women after breast cancer. The group is really about doing everything you can to improve the way you live your life.”

Since the group’s first meeting in March 2007, the group of about 20 has explored a diverse array of topics:
•  Cooking for wellness, including practical tips about buying organic produce and cooking healthful meals filled with fresh ingredients;
•  The impact of positive energy and visualization on overall health;
•  Exercises that help the body recoup and strengthen after breast surgery (including regaining range of motion);
•  Letting go through relaxation and meditation to release overall tension and stress;
•  And what Manders called a “community resource connection,” where attendees learned about why courses of treatment differ by person and options for reconstructive surgery.

In December, they’ll learn all about yoga and its physical (and mental) health benefits.
The group isn’t limited to UC patients—it’s open and free to anyone who could benefit.

Bridgetown resident and breast cancer survivor Jamie Byrne, a 36-year-old mother of four, says she wanted a group that was “about living after cancer and getting on with your life, not languishing in the diagnosis.”

In 2006, Byrne was diagnosed with stage-2 breast cancer and underwent full treatment, including a double mastectomy.

“I had no interest in going to ‘traditional’ patient support groups to talk about the depressing side of cancer,” recalls Byrne. “This group is fun—we do things that can help us move beyond the cancer chapter in our lives. I know the group will be there for me for years to come.”

She and fellow breast cancer survivor Jennifer Flick were two of the original women attending Manders’ sessions.

Flick, who was diagnosed at age 40, reiterates the group’s importance in helping her move on with life.

“Getting stuck in the diagnosis only gives it more power,” says Flick. “It’s been phenomenal partnering with a physician who believes healing isn’t just about medicine. I can incorporate part of the healing on my own, and put some of that power back in my hands by the choices I make in my life.

“I’ve learned from experience: It’s best not to focus on the fact that breast cancer happened to you, but to focus on what you can do to make your life better as a result,” she adds.

For more information on the group, call (513) 584-5354. The next meeting will be held Tuesday, Dec. 11.

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