Breast cancer support group offers solace to patients and survivors

Karen King was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008.

The dreaded diagnosis of breast cancer caught Karen King off-guard.

â??I was like, no, this just can't be happening to me,â?? King described the moment her doctor found the cancer four years ago.

King had no family history, and only got her mammogram because she switched doctors.

King said she struggled with denial - even anger - until a nurse reached out to her.

"The fears, the anxiety, the feeling that surround the diagnosis are so consistent,â?? said Kristin Cheverette, RN, BSN, OCN. Cheverette is the breast cancer nurse navigator at the McLaren Cancer Institute. She asked King to give her support group a try.

The Breast Cancer Support Group at McLaren Flint meets twice a month. Itâ??s open to anybody battling breast cancer.

"In health care nowadays, it tends to be a very rushed, fragmented system,â?? Cheverette said.

But in Kristin's group, women are encouraged to share their stories and feelings. Thereâ??s an unspoken understanding you can say anything; nothing leaves the room.

When she tried it, King said, "It was a huge, huge help for me to understand that there was more women going through what I was going through, than just myself."

She was initiated into a sisterhood of sorts.

â??It felt like a family, it really did,â?? King said.

The women in the support group helped pull King through seven weeks of radiation treatment and reconstruction surgery. And the denial and anger she had felt soon turned into determination to get better.

Even the medical community acknowledges the benefits a support group can have.

"Those patients will tend to tolerate treatments better,â?? Cheverette said. They also tend to have fewer side effects and breaks in treatment. They also often form lasting friendships.

â??I came out of it with a couple of very good friends,â?? King said. â??We supported one another.â??

Today, Karen is healthier and stronger, thanks to a circle of insiders who helped her realize she can get through just about anything in life.

The Breast Cancer Support Group meets every first and third Wednesday of the month at the McLaren Cancer Institute at 4100 Beecher Road.