Cancer Council NSW runs a telephone support group for women with metastatic (secondary) breast cancer. Cancer Support Consultant Gabrielle Asprey shares with The Beacon how this unique support group is connecting women with a shared experience.
Metastatic breast cancer is when cancer cells have spread from the original cancer site in the breast to more distant parts of the body.
A diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer brings a range of unique emotional, medical and practical challenges.
Some women find that they can’t get the support they need in their local support group, where they are often the only one living with metastatic breast cancer.
Others can’t attend a traditional face-to-face support group because they live in a remote area or have physical limitations due to their disease or treatment.
In 2006, Cancer Council NSW began offering a telephone support group for young women (aged up to 55) with metastatic breast cancer. In early 2013, the group was opened up to include all women with metastatic breast cancer.
Our members are women from all walks of life and from all over Australia. The group ‘meets’ on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month from 1.30 pm to 2.30 pm. Participation is flexible, so the group members can skip sessions when they need to.
There is no cost to participate and women can join the call from the comfort of their own home, or any location of their choosing.
The telephone meetings are facilitated by qualified health professionals who are experienced in supporting people affected by cancer.
The group gives members a place to discuss topics that they wouldn’t necessarily talk about with their family or friends, such as the ups and downs of scans and waiting for results, living on tenterhooks or dealing with uncertainty.
The facilitators and the group members place a great deal of importance on confidentiality of discussion. This means the women can openly talk of the trials, tribulations and positive aspects of living as well as they can. Being able to talk to others who really ‘get’ where you’re at is incredibly beneficial.
Group members discuss the myriad of changes that occur over time when living with metastatic disease, like having to give up work, physical restrictions, finding out what’s important to them in life and how to live to the best of their ability.
As well as providing emotional support, the group also includes practical discussions, where women share knowledge and first-hand experience of things like palliative care and accessing superannuation early. Participants draw on the strengths and knowledge of other group members, share practical tips and learn new coping strategies.
Our aim for the group is to strengthen the members’ capacity to help themselves and each other by reducing feelings of isolation and sharing coping strategies and problem-solving skills. By speaking with others who face similar challenges, the women are also able to enhance communication with their family members and friends.
If you would like more information, or to join the telephone support group, call Cancer Council on 13 11 20 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You do not have to live in NSW to join the group.