Micro-blogger Rachel Wolchin once posted, “Surround yourself with people who reflect who you want to be and how you want to feel, energies are contagious.”
In these times, when video calls are how we hang out with friends, and Instagram is how we share food, it is essential to have an online support group for cancer fighters and their families.
Katherine pours her heart out
Onco.com’s online cancer support group Talk Your Heart Out met on the afternoon of 14th June, to check on each other, and to extend an ear to anyone who needed it.
What was new about this session was that it was held together by Katherine Wein from Alaska. 34-year-old Katherine shared her difficult experience with blood cancer. For someone who is young, ambitious, and with a busy social life, a diagnosis of leukemia can be absolutely terrifying.
Katherine explained the different ways in which she acted out as a reaction to her diagnosis. From pushing away friends to being combative with her parents, Katherine did all she could to shut out the people who love her.
If the diagnosis was the first jolt, then there were more blows to come. When the doctors informed Katherine that she had stage III non-hodgkin’s lymphoma that had spread to other parts of her body and that it did not have a cure but might keep recurring for the rest of her life, she knew no way of consoling herself.
Accepting that treatment would not be a one-off event but an on-going journey is something she still struggles with. But she did manage to stick to her treatment schedule and complete her chemotherapy.
She also continued working through her treatment as that was required for her to keep her health insurance. She explains that having understanding colleagues was vital for this to happen.
Furthermore, her plight did not end when the treatment ended. New complications in her medical condition were identified in subsequent scans, but fortunately they were benign. However, they did require her to undergo surgery.
Still a bit raw
It’s only been two weeks since she underwent her surgery, and it was evident that sharing her feelings so close to that was a heavy experience for her. Yet she chose to share because she was certain that if that would help someone else going through cancer it would be worth it.
The other participants had a lot of questions for Katherine. Someone wanted to know whom she turned to for emotional support. Someone else wanted to know how she managed the side-effects of chemotherapy while continuing to work.
Katherine was happy to provide answers to all of these questions, patiently and with disarming honesty.
Our support system
The participants took turns in congratulating Katherine on her perseverance. Their praise and their assurances moved Katherine, just as her story had moved them.
Dealing with cancer is a uniquely personal experience and there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution for it. But something that is universal is the positive effect of empathy.
Knowing that their stories fulcrum around the same disease helped the participants feel like they were all in this together. All of them hoped to live a full life and were willing to help each other accomplish that.
While her exterior was composed and her smile was intact, Katherine shared that she had bad days too. If she could go back in time, she would seek out her friends and family rather than shun them away. She would also join a cancer support group early on, because it did help her immensely when she finally did join one.
Onco Warrior to the rescue
Jason Dsouza also spoke up about how he was introduced to Katherine through Onco.com and how as an Onco Warrior he began to speak with Katherine regularly.
Jason had gone through leukemia twice and having made that journey himself, he was a valuable friend, full of experience, and empathy for what Katherine was going through.
Jason shared that he was proud of how Katherine was handling things and Katherine said she was thankful for his friendship and support. Together, they proved that mentorship can do wonders when going through a difficult phase of your life.
Just having someone who understands, can mean the world at such a time.
Katherine shared that cancer had taught her how loved she was. Although she had been difficult to deal with post-diagnosis, her family and friends stood by her. Knowing that there are people who care enough to stay even when the going gets tough, has filled Katherine with gratitude.
Katherine’s words made some of the other participants feel like they needed to make that call to a friend or family member, just to tell them that they were thinking of them. The people who love us the most, unfortunately, are the same people we take for granted.
We await the next session of Talk Your Heart Out, where another story will be shared and more lessons will be learned. Till then, we shall remember to keep close to our family and friends and be grateful for who we have in our lives.
If you would like to know more about Talk Your heart Out, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.