Strength in numbers is the intention for Weyburn's new Cancer Support Group for Women, 'Sharing the Journey'. The group has been created to fill a local niche to have a safe and confidential place for women who have been diagnosed with cancer to be supported by others who have 'been there'.
Sharon Werstuik, Tammie Morrison, Vickie Betker and Maria Siourounis, four local women who are all cancer survivors, saw the need for such a group and decided to create one for the Weyburn area.
Through the Willows Breast Cancer Support Group in Regina, the ladies trained in organizing and running a support group. The Willow group happens to focus on breast cancer specifically, but Weyburn's group includes women of all walks of life - from those who have been recently diagnosed with any type of cancer to those who have been living with it for decades.
"Because it's a small community," said Tammie Morrison, "we have decided to open the group up to all cancers in women."
This particular group, therefore, does not include men.
"Some women would be hesitant to speak in a group setting if it was both (men and women)," said Sharon Werstuik. "We want those people to be able to come forward and to share and discuss what they need to."
The ladies also said they would be willing to help any men interested in forming a support group for male cancer survivors in Weyburn.
Werstuik noted that things can be very overwhelming when one is first diagnosed. With so much information available, what was really missing was such a group.
"There was nobody to talk to, nobody we knew, who had gone through it," she said.
Maria Siourounis stated that information about cancer is readily available and that it is 'all you get, from day one'. She said that even if one reads everything, the comfort one can get from people who have 'been there' cannot be found in any book.
Morrison said that not everybody wants to talk to family members all the time about their cancer.
"This is somebody else to talk to, that's not going to be in your house, and you're not going to scare them or be worried about them," she said. "You can take it there and even leave a little bit of it there, too."
"Or, if you don't even want to talk," Werstuik interjected, "to know somebody else has been there. You don't even have to say anything because they've been where you've been."
"I think when you're around fellow survivors, it feels like the fight is doable," said Morrison. "Like, if they can do it, I can do it. If she can do it, I can do it."
The only qualification for women interested in joining the group is a diagnosis.
"You're a survivor the moment you're diagnosed, as far as I'm concerned," added Morrison.
"We see ourselves as being a big support for people who are newly diagnosed," said Vickie Betker, "because that's when you're terrified, that's when you don't know what's coming next, so it could be good to talk to people who have done it."
Siourounis added that it's most important to spend time together, to have good days. She expressed that although, as a support group, they can't make cancer go away, but they can make the good days better.
"I don't think the journey is ever over," said Morrison.
Sharing a personal journey offers the opportunity to form new bonds and relationships. Confidentiality and understanding is the focus of the group, however, resources will be available.
"There are no two cancers the same, no two people the same and no two treatments the same," said Werstuik.
As Siourounis noted, the only thing that's the same is the fear. This common ground is what brings people together, she said, and she hopes the group will be able to help others.
The group will meet every second Wednesday of the month from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. at the Weyburn Public Library in the activity room on the lower level. The first meeting will be held on January 9.