Life has taught me that when faced with a crisis, one gains immeasurably from sharing the experience with others who have been there and worked through it and learned how to cope. So when challenged by a diagnosis of a returning episode of cancer, I made desperate enquiries about support groups in my area. These led nowhere for weeks. My situation became more and more stressful and my need for communication more and more urgent.
One day I received a call from ESRA to say that a woman had come in wanting to create a support group for English-speaking cancer sufferers and I should contact her to see if it might be what I was looking for. And that is how I met Jackie. And, as it is said, `the rest is history' - but what a fascinating history it is; one so successful and uplifting that it is well worth writing about.
In Jackie's own words:
"Basically, the Support Group was formed to enable women who are more comfortable expressing themselves in English to connect with other women with similar health issues."
The very first meeting at Jackie's home in Hod HaSharon drew five participants. My own personal memory of that meeting will never fade. I walked in - a very anxious preoperative cancer patient awaiting imminent surgery, with tremendous trepidation and concerns. I walked out with a different lilt to my stride, facing the challenge ahead of me with confidence and faith. I was much more relaxed because I had met women at that meeting who had experienced everything I was going through and were a living example of a successful outcome to whatever I had to face. Many of my fears were alleviated and a new attitude was generated.
I was not present at a number of subsequent meetings of the support group as my hospital stay and recuperation were lengthy, but when I returned, inspired by the benefit of having had input from fellow survivors of cancer, the group had already melded into a unified force with some parameters having been established.
All women suffering from any form of cancer - whether newly diagnosed or long-term survivors – are warmly welcomed at monthly meetings held in the early evening in members’ homes. Being able to chat about concerns in a group where others have gone through the same issues, in an informal social environment is a most beneficial exercise.
We are bombarded by TV and media advice, so often conflicting. In this group we have gained much knowledge of sites worthy of attention, sifting where possible through the quagmire of useless facts to the legitimate health sites with invaluable information. We share our personal experience and our favorite wholesome recipes. In addition, in deference to modern technology we now share important cancer ‘breaking news’ with each other in emails.
Most important of all, we share our tears and often much laughter, which in itself is therapeutic. Our minds have been opened to welcome tips for healthy living - all tools useful in the battle of tackling cancer. From time to time, professionals have been invited to our meetings to offer their expertise, whether in guidance for relaxation, meditation techniques, diet, mental health or logo therapy.
`Sharing is caring' and the support group has been most successful in living up to this maxim. We have made many new friends and are today a cohesive group gaining benefit from each other's experiences, ideas and approaches to our common challenges. Everything discussed at our meetings is confidential and treated with respect. Our numbers have grown and we are proud to be counted amongst the many other successful counseling services that ESRA offers the English speaking Israeli community.
THE SUPPORT group has been active since July 2014. Meetings are held in members’ homes and there is no fee to pay. It only takes a phone call to Jackie, our founder and coordinator, on 054 460 2324 to join us.