The first time Cindi Gardner walked into the Rosie Ring, she felt comfortable.
“We share. People listen. We get understanding without those sad looks we get from people who haven’t experienced cancer. I don’t feel the stigma of cancer – we all have it or are recovering from it,” she said in a recent testimonial. “It isn’t the dirty word or the elephant in the room no one wants to acknowledge. I don’t have to reveal that I have cancer – that’s why I’m there!”
Rosie Ring is a networking and support group for women facing breast cancer offered through KentuckyOne Health Cancer Care at Saint Joseph East. Since 2013, women in the group have been gathering to discuss everything from the side effects of medicine to coping strategies to quality of life.
“It’s a great combination of incredible women, a social worker who gets it and is open to whatever topic comes up, and a place I can go where I don’t feel like the sick one,” she said in a recent testimonial. “I DON’T FEEL LIKE THE SICK ONE.”
The group meets for different activities that expose them to tools they can use while coping with their diagnosis, treatment and fear of reoccurrence, according to Stacy Florence, MSW, CSW, OSW-C, manager of Business Operations, Oncology Services.
“Group has been where I’ve learned so much – about treatment, recovery, resources, coping strategies, … Oh my! I realize physicians can’t give me a list of every possible side effect, information about alternative treatments, or share personal stories of patients,” Cindi said. “I’m amongst a group of women – intelligent, proactive women – who have educated themselves about self-care and cancer and are willing to share. I can show up at Group and ask, ‘Has anyone????’ and most likely someone has and is willing to talk about it.”
The women do yoga. They take cooking classes. They’ve done a drum circle. They’ve focused on things such as combatting fatigue, physical therapy, eating well, medication management and advance care planning.
“Our activities and outings – from meditation, restorative yoga, dog kennels – are a great combination of fun, distraction, and still with that common bond of cancer<” Cindi said. “If someone needs to take it slow, no one complains. Good news/results, not so good news/results – it’s all OK. Bald heads, compression stockings, lopsided chests – it’s all OK.”
For Cindi, it’s more than the group meetings. She’s made new friends, who often check in with her and they meet regularly for lunch. That includes a special friend “who lets me whine and complain about the side effects of the aromatase inhibitor I am taking. She also deals with the same issues, and we support each other through emails, dinners, and texts. She is a huge support – which shows that Group extends outside of our scheduled gatherings.
“There is just something about the Rosie Ring that is special. I can’t quite put my finger on it and put it succinctly. I just know it works,” she said. “We are a group of women going through treatment and recovering from treatment – living with that shadow of recurrence that no one else quite gets.
“Group – it’s a good thing.”
Learn more about Rosie Ring and other Cancer Care support groups at Saint Joseph East.