Blood Cancer Groups offer Support, Solace and a few Laughs.
On the third Tuesday of every month, a dozen or so men and women show up at Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers’ Boulder clinic. They don’t come for treatment, or consultation. In fact, they arrive well after the staff has gone home.
They just come to be together, and talk.
For nearly seven years, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Blood Cancer Support Group has met here, and members do just what the name implies: support each other. And for all those years, RMCC registered nurse Amelia Schachter, RN, OCN, has volunteered her time to facilitate the meetings. For the past two years, she’s been joined by another volunteer, co-facilitator Melanie Stachelski, a therapist with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
Other Leukemia & Lymphoma Society support groups meet regularly at RMCC locations in Aurora, Colorado Springs, Denver, and Grand Junction.
The group doesn’t offer formal therapy, though there are frequent guest speakers and special programs. Mostly it’s just talking, sharing day-to-day tribulations and major anxieties, encouragement and triumphs.
“They pour their hearts out. They’re very brave,” says Schachter. “And we laugh a lot.”
The people who come represent every stage of the cancer experience, Schachter says, from those so newly diagnosed they haven’t begun treatment yet, to those years removed from treatment. The group is open to those with any kind of blood cancer, including leukemias, lymphomas, and myelomas. It’s also open to family and loved ones, Schachter says.
“Some people come asking for information, like ‘How did you feel on this particular drug?’ Others just want emotional support,” Schachter says.
They typically find both. “It’s nothing too intense. It’s about giving people resources, and about normalizing people’s experiences,” Stachelski says.
Experiences like losing sleep for weeks in anxious anticipation of a medical test — even years after successfully completing treatment. “A lot of patients are surprised to learn they have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder,” Stachelski says. “They think that just happens to people in the military. But there is a lot of research about cancer patients experiencing PTSD.”
And it can be reassuring to learn other people share similar experiences, she says.
Even more reassuring, Stachelski says: Hearing from those who’ve finished treatment and eased back into a “normal” life — so much so that they are bothered again by the minor “normal” stresses of everyday life.
“People who are out of treatment can be the light at the end of the tunnel for others,” Stachelski says.
No matter what phase they are in, the group, Stachelski says, “is about providing hope and a place where people can be true to where they are in their experience.”
To learn more about Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers’ Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Blood Cancer Support Groups, visit our Support Groups page.
To learn more about resources available through the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, visit LLS Rocky Mountain page.