The room is filled with red-and-white checkered tablecloths decorated with yellow sunglasses and lemon candy.
People smile and laugh as they walk around with bingo cards. In the corner, there's a "Guess-the-Weight" jar filled with scraps of paper and a heavy watermelon next to it.
All these people are united by a common experience: breast cancer.
This is A Time to Heal,
a women's support group for survivors of breast cancer or those going through it currently. Living60010 stopped by their annual picnic at Advocate Good Shepard Hospital
and spoke to Charlotte Dioguardi
and Susan Brady,
organizers of the event, to learn more about the program's activities and history.
What is your role in respect to the group and how did you get involved with A Time to Heal?
I am the Manager of the Breast Care Center and Radiation Therapy Department, and so I manage those areas, and I also manage my Navigators. They are the ones that directly support the A Time to Heal group.
I am the Oncology Nurse Navigator at Advocate Good Shepard Hospital, and for the last several months I have been the facilitator for A Time to Heal. I really got involved with it because my job involves doing community outreach and supporting our community of oncology patients.
How would you describe A Time to Heal?
A Time to Heal is a support group for women that have recovered from breast cancer or are currently going through breast cancer.
At any point in their survivorship or breast cancer journey, these women come together to provide each other emotional support, advice, suggestions.
A Time to Heal has been a national program for around ten years, and came to Good Shepard about 5 years ago. What has changed for A Time to Heal at Good Shepard over the program’s tenure?
It’s definitely more structured, and it seems to be more driven by the breast cancer survivors. They give us their topics that they would like to see, and we’re just more in the background as facilitators. Each month they have a different topic, and then twice a year we do something like this (referring to the picnic) where we just gather, and then in December, we have like a Christmas party. So next month they’re doing a painting class, and the month after that we’re bringing somebody in about fitness. Once a year, we bring in a doctor’s panel, and they’re welcome to ask any questions they have.
I think that we’ve done a lot to grow the group. We’ve become a lot more electronic, meaning that we’re accessing people’s emails and trying to get the word out into the community that we’re here. We’ve also allowed the women in the group to play a bigger role facilitating and coming up with their own ideas. So I’d say that’s a big transition, we don’t dictate things, we support them.
One of the program’s values is, “Compassion for all touched by cancer”. How have you seen that compassion in action?
You see that compassion every time they meet. They’re incredibly supportive of one another, a lot of them are at different points in their journeys so those that have more experience, more years of survivorship, kind of mentor and support the younger ones and take a lot of the fear and mystery out of it. They hug each other, they unconditionally support and embrace each other, it’s beautiful.
I think that when you’re with another breast cancer survivor, they understand what you went through. They’re walking in their shoes and can help guide them and share their experiences with them to help them along their journey.
How has Good Shepard supported A Time to Heal?
I think Good Shepard does an amazing job. We try to provide them with everything they need to have an environment to come and be safe and welcomed, and then let them work their own magic. We try to do anything and everything to facilitate that process; whatever speaker they want to hear, if we want to add another time for them to meet, etc. We do whatever is best for the group. But while I’m proud of what we do, I’m proud of what they do. They’re really what makes the magic happen. We can provide them with the rooms and the beverages and the fruit but they need to come and share themselves and they do that wonderfully.
We support them through resources, staff, during the journey through breast cancer, and even afterward too. Anything they need, we always help them. We love helping out because it’s fun to pull the group together. Other than the events that we put on monthly for A Time to Heal, we also have yoga for our cancer patients at the Fitness Center. So that’s another way we support the women. And if there’s anything that these women need that we don’t provide at Good Shepard, we find it for them.
A Time to Heal
has a couple of events coming up in the next few months:
- Group Painting with Carol Foster, a cancer survivor/artist. Tuesday, August 15th, 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. - OR - Thursday, August 17th, 5:45 p.m. to 7:15 p.m.
- Guest Speaker Len Palombi, a certified Post Rehab Breast Cancer Exercise Specialist. Tuesday, September 19th, 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. - OR - Thursday, September 21st, 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Both events will be held in Conference Room A at the Main Entrance of Advocate Good Shepard Hospital
. Everyone with an interest in breast cancer is welcome. All sessions are free of charge. No reservations necessary.