: Members of the CARES Cancer Survivors Support Group include from left to right, Bill Schrieves, Sharon Loving, LCSW-C, group facilitator, Denise McDonald, Clyde Blades and Melvin Ward.
Soldiers who share the field of battle are known to walk away from the front lines with an almost impenetrable bond with their fellow comrades. The same can often be said for those who go through a cancer journey. While each experience is unique, the lessons learned and issues endured during one’s cancer battle creates a special kinship with fellow survivors that helps survivors navigate the days, week and months long after their treatments are complete.
That kinship can be felt in the meetings of the CARES Cancer Survivors Group, which meets the first and third Thursday evening at the University of Maryland Shore Regional Health’s Cancer Center. Survivors like Bill Shrieves of Easton and Denise McDonald of Denton faithfully attend each meeting because of the openness and ability to talk about just about anything the group wants to share that day.
“The camaraderie is almost instant – it is a really beautiful thing,” says Shrieves, a four-year pancreatic cancer survivor who has been coming to the CARES Cancer Survivors Support group for over two years. “Sometimes there are things that you just don’t want to burden your family with. You might be dealing with an issue that someone else has already been through so this group provides a safe environment to gain from that.”
For McDonald, a six-year breast cancer survivor, the group offers a safe environment to share news of all kinds.
“They really listen. You can cry, you can laugh, you can swear – we are all here for each other,” she says. “We are like a family.”
While the group has many of the same members at each meeting, no meeting is ever the same – and new members are always welcome.
“No topic is really off limits and it is always different every week,” adds Clyde Blades, a four-year pancreatic cancer survivor. “You never know when something that you bring up will be something someone else is going through too.”
The CARES Cancer Survivors Support Group is facilitated by Sharon Loving, LCSW-C, aclinical social worker. According to Loving, the group includes members in all stages of survivorship, including some with recurrent cancer diagnoses.
“We just want to let people know that where ever they are on their cancer journey, they are not alone. Attending the group for the first time can be difficult; people don’t know what to expect. But our members are so caring; newcomers are embraced immediately.”
Melvin Ward, a three-time cancer survivor, relies on the support group to help keep his spirits up through what has been a very long battle with the disease.
“Coming to support group has really helped me with my coping mechanisms – it can be a daily struggle,” says Ward, who admits that his long-term cancer treatments for has taken a toll on his body. “I might come and hear about a new article or new research or just find my voice but coming to these meetings helps me keep a positive outlook.”
The CARES Cancer Survivors Support Group welcomes new members. The group meets on the first and third Thursday of the month at the UM Shore Regional Health Cancer Center, located at 509 Idlewild Avenue, Easton. For more information call 410-820-6800, ext. 2257 or 443-254-5940.