Over the past three years I have had the pleasure of meeting many breast cancer women around the United States. We have affectionately given ourselves the name of "Breast Cancer Sisters." Originally we met through our computers, and gave each other support as we went through surgeries and treatments for this disease. It started with a post on a bulletin board and them proceeded to e-mail letters.
Eventually, some of us joined the America Online cancer survivors support group. One year ago, Lois Feick from Reading, Penn., decided to form a smaller group to meet in a chat room once a month. This group was specifically for breast cancer survivors and their support persons. In the past year our membership has grown. In the group are some of the original "Breast Cancer Sisters." This became the name of Lois' group, too.
On June 17, 1997, Lois was diagnosed with her fifth recurrence. When my friend Heather and I heard this we decided not to put off meeting Lois in person any longer. We live in Southern California. It was then that plans began to formulate for us to fly to Pennsylvania for a long weekend visit. Little did we know then what would come from this dream of ours.
An invitation was extended to other members of the group to join us. Beginning in mid-July we went from three people to 24. Eight rooms were booked in Reading where some of us not only doubled but tripled up. Lois also invited her local support group to join us for the event. It blossomed into a mini-convention for breast cancer sisters.
As the size of participants grew it was suggested that we have a book signing and actual conference speakers. We could do it ourselves since our group includes Sandy Marron from Maryland. She has appeared on television and in magazine articles for her efforts in getting legislation passed for insurance companies to cover reconstruction surgeries.
Heather Gilbert from Southern California is co-founder of the newly formed non-profit organization to help breast cancer patients retain their homes while going through surgeries and treatments.
Also, in our midst is Lillie Shockney, a well-known breast cancer awareness spokesperson on the East Coast and the author of Breast Cancer Survivors' Club: A Nurse's Experience. I, too, have a book out on this subject and speak to groups on the West Coast. We had our own cast of speakers and performers.
There were moments during this eventful weekend when I would look around whatever room we were all in, and just absorb the power emanating from the women present. It would overwhelm me when I would think of how we all came together as sisters, from our various states and lives, and in only one month's time planned this happening through daily e-mail letters. I basked in the love and sharing, the talent and the strength of such beautiful women. Even though we were of varying ages--from 21 to late 50s--and spoke with different accents, we were one in our hearts, and in the common bond of being breast cancer survivors.
As an added note, Lois' fifth recurrence somehow miraculously disappeared over the course of the month of planning our first Breast Cancer Sisters Convention. (Didn't I already mention the power of the women present?)
Marilyn R. Moody
Author of Courage & Cancer, A Breast Cancer Diary, A Journey from Cancer to Cure