On the face of it, Arlene Redisch’s cancer treatment has been a success. After being diagnosed in 2013 with gastrointestinal stromal cancer, she was treated at MD Anderson Cancer Center and today is cancer-free. Each day, she takes a pill that she hopes will keep her that way. ‘You look at me, I have my hair and I seem ok,” she says. “It’s difficult for people to understand the side effects I deal with – the fatigue, the digestive issues, the pain and how it affects relationships.”
This dichotomy – how a person can look fine while struggling with the life-altering effects of cancer – is one reason Arlene suggested that CJFS offer a support group for people living with cancer, those in treatment and survivors. “I remembered that CJFS had offered this group before, and I felt it would benefit me and probably others.”
The “Living with Cancer” group was launched with 11 members in early 2018, led by CJFS Social Worker Gail Schuster, LCSW. Participants told Gail they wanted the group to be therapeutic in nature rather than educational. Thus, discussion topics came from the group members themselves – whatever they were dealing with on a given day. “There are family issues, treatment issues - maybe someone wants to pursue an alternative treatment, but they don’t know how you do that,” Gail says.
After a summer break, the group is meeting again and is open to new members, male or female, with any type of cancer diagnosis. “When we met in the spring, it happened that all the members were women, but we know that cancer doesn’t discriminate,” Gail says. For Arlene, a key benefit of the group is the opportunity to help others. “I had stage four cancer, and I’ve been two years with no evidence of disease, so I can at least give somebody some hope,” she says. “If I can help someone to have a better day, I feel better.”
To join the ‘Living with Cancer’ support group, contact Gail Schuster, firstname.lastname@example.org. For information on or ideas for other support groups, contact Clinical Director Stu Jaffe, email@example.com or 205.879.3438.