Florine Burgardt of Great Bend began attending the regular meetings of the local Heartland Cancer Support Group shortly after her diagnosis. She also participated during the time of her treatment and still attends while in remission.
"It is the friendships that have remained constant through everything," Burgardt said. "I gain strength by listening to what the others say about their cancer diagnoses and treatments. And it’s comforting that they know what I am feeling.
"The advice they share is invaluable," Burgardt added. "They teach me how to get through the difficult times and it is encouraging to see that they are doing so well."
Jamie Hutchinson, R.N. and director of the Heartland Cancer Center, encourages other cancer patients to consider Burgardt’s comments and seek the camaraderie of the facility’s support group. It meets at 2 p.m. on the first and third Tuesdays of the month at the HCC, 204 Cleveland; during the summer, it is only one Tuesday a month.
In addition, there are several events throughout the year including picnics for cancer survivors and their families, Christmas and New Year’s parties, and balloon launches.
"We have great attendance for these special events but have had no real growth to the group itself," Hutchinson said. "There are several reasons for this and the first is privacy. We understand this.
"However, we also understand that cancer patients could reap many benefits by sharing their experiences and enjoying the rewards of helping others," Hutchinson added. "The give-and-take among those with similar experiences can help with peace of mind."
Younger patients may shy away from the group because they don’t believe they have time to attend. They are busy trying to press on with life by working, taking care of their children and themselves, Hutchinson commented.
"They may be surprised at how much our support group could help in a wide variety of ways," Hutchinson said. "After diagnosis, a patient feels a huge loss of control and believes their life is no longer theirs.
"Days are spent at doctors’ appointments, receiving chemotherapy or radiation, and thinking of a million other places they would rather be," she continued. "Dealing with cancer is never easy but the support group can prepare the patients for their next steps and offer comfort along the way."
The Cancer Support Group currently has about a dozen regular members who benefit from their fellow patients as well as the guest speakers featured at some of the meetings.
For more information, call 620-792-5511. The HCC is part of the Central Kansas Medical Center family.