Ten Years of Brain Tumor Support Group
The Brain Tumor Support Group recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary. Pictured left from the group are Tammy Thayer (Patient, co-facilitator), Lori Hayes, MS, RN (co-facilitator), Letty Geanon, NP (co-facilitator) and Jane Seliger, NP (past facilitator). Below, Lori reflects on the occasion and why she is grateful for the group.
I began my current position in 1991. Shortly after I started, Jane, an NP who worked with the brain tumor neurosurgeon, said she had a patient, Tammy, who was dedicated to getting a brain tumor support group started. Tammy is an inspiring, driving force who had been recently diagnosed with a brain lesion. So the three of us met and the rest is history, as they say.
The first meeting of the support group was on October 19, 1999. On October 20, 2009 we proudly, gratefully and joyously celebrated our 10-year anniversary.
The group has been meeting monthly since its inception. We have a core group of members who seem to have been with us since the start and others who come as their schedules, lives and needs allow or require.
I always tell people, support groups aren't for everyone, but you don't know if they're for you until you attend one. People also ask me, "Aren't they sad?" I don't want to be around sad people. My reply is "Sometimes."
Yes, it's hard when a member passes away or is struggling with a problem, but most of the time we celebrate the successes: learning to walk again, regaining balance and walking without a cane or walker, a stable to improved scan, completing radiation or chemotherapy, the marriage of a daughter, being alive long enough to teach your child how to drive a car. I am constantly amazed at the individuals who make up the support group - that includes both the persons with the tumor and their family, spouses, caregivers and support persons.
I admit, on the day of each support group meeting, I start thinking about the meeting earlier in the day. Apprehension/anxiety starts- will everyone be doing ok, who might need extra support today, how will MRI scans have turned out and will I have the words, and resources to help.
I leave every meeting feeling like we (the whole group) have made a difference. I am renewed and hopeful and reminded of the take home lesson of "every day is important".
When I heard a twelve-year survivor of a very malignant tumor say "I'm glad I had this experience. I wouldn't trade it for anything". At first I was surprised. But when he tells his story and explains how it impacted his life you gain a very different perspective. As a group, together we celebrate positive scans, we celebrate the life of members we have lost - remembering them and their stories, we offer each other support during and between the meetings.
The 10 years have been a journey of stories: some new, some we've heard before but rejoice in the re-telling and ones we never tire of hearing or sharing. In sharing, we remember how every day is a celebration. All I can say is thank you to Tammy for having the drive to see a support group develop, Jane (my first co-leader) and Letty (current co-leader) for their work in making the support group run smoothly and mostly importantly to the members who come. You have touched my life in a very special way.