‘They can save your life’

Group portrait: the members of the Women’s Cancer Support Group and (far right) the group’s facilitator Victoria Jazwic.  Sequim Gazette photo by Mark Couhig

Olympic Medical Cancer Center is increasing the number and reach of its support groups.
Patient navigator Susan Clements says the center has responded to growing demand for the services by adding a new Family/Caregiver Cancer Support Group. OMCC also is offering a “Healing Exercise During Treatment Program,” a one-time class to encourage cancer patients to take up the exercise and nutrition habits that will extend and enhance their lives.

Sharing the burden
Victoria Jazwic, the facilitator for OMCC’s Women’s Cancer Support Group, now is providing the same leadership for the Family/Caregiver Cancer Support Group.
G.J. Taylor is an enthusiastic member of the new group. When Taylor’s wife, Gale, was diagnosed with cancer, he knew he would need help dealing with the symptoms he experiences: fear, panic attacks, anger, frustration. “My wife having cancer — that totally took over our lives. Having no place to go was very difficult.”
He first joined the men’s support group, where he was the only member who didn’t have cancer. “When you have cancer, you’re in kind of a select group,” he said, “but they took me in and gave me some real insight.”
When the new Family/Caregiver Support Group started up, he quickly joined. “When a loved one is sick, you’re sick, too,” he said. “Emotionally, spiritually and even physically. These groups help you deal with that,” he said. “They can save your life.”
Taylor, a Vietnam veteran, said the pain of having a loved one endure cancer is even more intense than what he experienced in combat. While saying he never would downplay the difficulties of war, “This kind of suffering and pain doesn’t go away till you find a release.”
The support group, he said, is “a positive way to maintain mental health.”
“Men tend to be more withdrawn,” Taylor said, noting men rarely want to talk about their pain and suffering. “But the most virile thing is to acknowledge the pain,” he said.
Joe Streva also is married to a cancer patient. He echoed Taylor’s thoughts and added that he is attending the meetings because they help him understand “the pains and the feelings my wife is going through.”

Healing through exercise
Barb Paschal, a recently-retired OMC physical therapist, is in charge of the new “Healing Exercise During Treatment Program.”
The one-time class provides encouragement and guidance for cancer patients to live a more healthful lifestyle.
Clements said research shows cancer patients can take three actions independent of their physician that are known to extend and improve their lives: 1) stop smoking, 2) eat a nutritious diet and 3) exercise.
“Everyone should do all three,” she said, but noted for cancer patients the results can be even more dramatic.

A continuing success

Those participating in the Cancer Center’s Women’s Support Group are unani-mous in declaring the program a success and they encourage others to sign up with one of the various groups.
Even though she is a registered hospice nurse, Sky Heatherton originally was hesitant to join in. The diagnosis “hit me too hard, too fast.”
But after her double mastectomy, she dropped by the Medical Services Building as a support group meeting was starting to gather. “I stood outside the doors for a long time. And then a sweet lady brought me in. It’s a very safe place,” she said.
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