Kelly Paquette shares her experience with the group:
She approached the stony facade with a little apprehension and a bit of a knot in her stomach. Taking a deep breath she stepped toward the building and entered the dark foyer. To the left a set of stairs led to the basement. Carefully descending the steps she wondered what she’d find at the bottom. The room was a bit stark. In the middle of the tiled floor stood a ring of metal folding chairs. About half the chairs were empty, the other half were filled with sour faced individuals. “What on earth am I doing here,” she mumbled to herself. Removing her coat and laying it over the back of the chair she tried to get comfortable. A woman dressed in a baggie skirt and tunic approached the circle of misfits. “I’d like to welcome all of you here tonight. Thank you for coming. Who would like to start?” Everyone suddenly got interested in inspecting some unseen speck on their shoe. Finally, figuring that she’d better start so that this evening could end, she stood up and said, “My name is Kelly and I’m a cancer survivor.”
Kind of bleak, isn’t it? Well I am so happy to report that this little scene isn’t anything like the support group that I have landed in on Tuesday nights. It is filled with light and laughter, teasing and kind words. It is truly a place to accept and to be accepted. We are an odd mix of folks. Reminds me of one of my mom’s bowling teams, the Motley Crew. When our meeting starts it sounds like we’re reading the table of contents in a first year medical student’s anatomy book: Stomach, cervical, ovarian, breast, throat, kidney, rectal, blood, spine, bone. All followed by the words “Cancer survivor.” We are a group of people that in our everyday life would’ve never found each other except through this thread that binds us together on a journey none of has chosen. We are led by an incredibly supportive social worker. She knows how to guide the conversation, making sure everyone has the opportunity to share a thought. When there’s a lull she knows that phrase to throw out there to get us going again or she’ll share a story about her large slobbery dogs. At the end of the table sits our porcelain angel dressed in white who admitted that she was having a grumpy day and had said the f-word 8 times. There’s the spunky insurance sales woman that tells us about the wicked people she has to put up with at work and there’s the group of women that want to go to work with her to beat those small minded folks up! There’s the mom who is going through all of this while adopting a set of very energetic twin 5 year old boys. There’s our dear friend that seems like he’s had to endure so much more than one person
should have to, yet he keeps plugging away. To my left I see a friend who realized that she didn’t want to go through this alone so she joined in as well. There’s the gentleman with the flat top haircut like my dad’s that tells dirty jokes when I’m not there to read, which by the way I think he should tell when I AM there! The group swells and wanes each week. We float in and out as our lives allow. We are married and single. We are childless and parents and even grandparents. We work and we’re unable to work. We are a varied and glorious mix of souls that through the grace of God, have found each other.
If someone were to walk by the room, not knowing why we were there, they’d probably think we were a group of rowdy friends catching up with each other. Either that or they’d think we were a group of rowdy drunken sailors on shore leave. We spend most of our time together sharing stories of our week. Sometimes it’s about our treatments, but just as often it’s about the things that are happening in our everyday lives. Sometimes the stories are sad and there are tears, but just as often there is laughter. There are times that the laughter is loud and brings us to the point of tears. We kid and console and encourage and rejoice. We pass the tissues and pass the bull. But the most important thing is that we can hold each others’ hand and honestly say “I understand.” When I first started my journey, I didn’t think I wanted to be a part of a support group. I didn’t think that I could handle listening to other people’s stories. I now know that I was wrong and infantile in my thinking. This group has come to mean so much to me. There are times that I feel more like an observer than a participant, but I take it all in. I don’t need to tell these folks how I feel, because they know. I’m not sure how long this group will last. I hope for a very long time. But I will take comfort there while I can and feel the blessing of their friendships. Thank you God for the gift of the Tuesday Night Botsford Cancer Center Support Group. Hey, guys, do you think we could come up with a better name? One that doesn’t sound like we’re sitting on metal chairs in some mildewy basement!