Finding A Community of Pink Sisters After Breast Cancer Diagnosis
By Bethany Kandel
Bethany Kandel is a New York City-based journalist who often writes about health issues including breast cancer. She is a 13-year breast cancer survivor.
You’ve got a friend. James Taylor was onto something when he wrote the lyrics to his popular song.
It’s something many women find they need when first diagnosed with breast cancer. Sure, you may be surrounded by family and friends who offer support, solace and care. But sometimes, what you really need is someone who truly gets what you are going through; someone who’s walked those steps before. Someone who will listen, let you vent, will join you in cursing cancer and won’t offer platitudes simply to make you feel better. Research studies have even found a connection between social connections and survival. Having a support system that includes people who understand your experience first-hand is so important.
That’s certainly what I found when I was diagnosed with breast cancer 13 years ago. Since none of my friends had yet dealt with cancer, I turned to support groups, online chat rooms, and other helpful resources … of which there are many.
Soon I found my pink sisterhood. I called them my BFFs — Breast Friends Forever. Luckily for me, my cancer center offered many activities to bring the recently diagnosed together.
It was better than a support group. I wasn’t looking for a place to lament, “Why me?” and listen to health tales (which were often much worse than my own). I just wanted to connect with others who knew things I didn’t and could offer me guidance along this sometimes-bewildering journey.
The women I met in this new community had little in common — other than cancer — but we happily joined cooking lessons, make-up sessions and dance classes. While doing fun stuff together, conversations naturally turned to our common disease, and in a relaxed atmosphere, we shared tips on getting through chemo, the best bras to buy post-surgery and when to start exercising. We could throw off our wigs and go bald and laugh about how the first hairs to return post-chemo often sprouted on chins.
While well-meaning friends and relatives encouraged me to “move on,” my cancer family understood the underlying fear of recurrence that is usually quietly hiding in the subconscious, but occasionally comes bubbling to the surface in the middle of the night.
That’s where the internet was a saving grace. When I was nervous before my first radiation, or had a question about starting a new drug, the first place I went was to the online pals I met on breast cancer websites or private Facebook groups. There, 24/7 I could find a welcoming, helpful ear. When I wrote about a concern on a message board, my inbox was filled with scores of supportive responses.
Now, many years out, I occasionally check in with my pink sisters and peruse the online resources. Though my needs have changed, I know my gals are out there. No one needs to fight cancer alone.
Here are ways to connect to those with shared experiences:
- The American cancer Society can help you find local support programs and services. https://www.cancer.org/treatment/support-programs-and-services.html
- Breastcancer.org has dozens of active message boards.
- Imerman Angels will match you with a “mentor angel” who has had a similar diagnosis and treatment, for one-on-one support. https://imermanangels.org/
- The Breasties has a vibrant nationwide online and in-person community of young women with breast cancer or with the BRCA gene. https://thebreasties.org/
Bethany Kandel is a New York City-based journalist who often writes about health issues including breast cancer. She is a 13-year breast cancer survivor. She is the founder of www.BreastCancerFreebies.com, a website that helps breast cancer patients and survivors find free wigs, hats, make-overs, magazines, retreats, financial aid, supportive services and much more.
Find her on Instagram @awaywithbethany