A new attendee at the cancer support group sat quietly while others told their stories. He had recently been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer and was feeling dejected. When it was Betty Bond’s turn, she explained that she was a seven-year survivor of Stage 4 ovarian cancer. For the first time, the group’s newest participant spoke up. “Finally,” he exclaimed, “someone who has survived a Stage 4 cancer!”
It’s just one of many examples of the support and encouragement that happen in Memorial Hospital’s monthly “Journey of Hope” cancer support group meetings. Now in its 17th year, the group offers participants the opportunity to share their hopes and fears with others who understand what they are going through.
Journey of Hope was created in 1999 by Roxanne Major, RN OCN and Ruthann Fabrizio, RN BSN. Together, the nurses wanted to create a place for cancer patients to come together — a compassionate setting where knowledge, fears and even humor could be shared.
“Everybody is different and everyone has their own story,” Roxanne said. “We laugh a lot, we cry, and we talk things out. We sometimes forget how strong people can be. The goal of our group is to meet people where they are, and help as best we can.”
Since the group started, hundreds of people with all types and stages of cancer have participated, and significant others are encouraged to attend as well. Sometimes, friends or relatives of cancer patients who live elsewhere come looking for answers and support. The group is free and welcomes community members regardless of where they are receiving their treatment.
Robert Bond first started attending the group nine years ago to support his wife, Betty, who was in the midst of her fight against Stage 4 ovarian cancer. Then, three years ago, Robert was diagnosed with a blood cancer.
“Everybody gives you advice,” Bob said, “but the group is a place where you can get accurate information as well as support. Today, cancer is really a chronic disease because of all the new chemotherapy agents and targeted therapies.”
Ruthann Fabrizio is mostly retired but still cofacilitates Journey of Hope. Looking back on her long career she said, “As a nurse, you take everything to heart. When there’s a cancer diagnosis, everybody is scared. Everybody is looking for a sense of normalcy.The group lets people feel like they are with friends who understand what’s happening to them.”
Memorial Hospital’s oncology and infusion services have grown significantly since they were launched 20 years ago. This summer, the hospital completed major renovations, creating a state-of-the-art setting where patients can receive quality cancer treatment close to home. And all of them will find a compassionate group of people ready to support them along their Journey of Hope.