Speaking the language of love
While Valentine’s Day often conjures feelings of love and warmth, Dr. Pamela Schlembach noticed the special day elicited a different response from women in her breast cancer support and survivorship group.
As the facilitator of Breast Friends, open to women of any age and all stages of breast cancer, Schlembach found a recurring theme: Several expressed sadness or resentment on Feb. 14 because it served as a reminder of relationships they had lost during their struggle with cancer.
That gave Schlembach, associate professor and radiation oncologist with MD Anderson Cancer Care Center in The Woodlands, an idea.
She decided to host an annual celebration with sensitivity to single, divorced and widowed survivors. Pamper Me Night, now in its third year, is a special evening to commemorate women living with breast cancer.
“We wanted women to feel pampered,” she said, “so the night is full of things we all like: massages, facial treatments, gifts and food.”
One of the goals of Pamper Me Night is to communicate in ways identified in The Five Love Languages, written by Dr. Gary Chapman. They are quality time, words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, and physical touch.
“When local businesses and volunteers thought about helping people in their community who are survivors of breast cancer, they were happy to donate and help out,” Schlembach said. “This is our way of telling these women we care about them.”
In 2009, Breast Friends had fewer than 15 regular attendees. Today, the group has grown to more than 170 members with monthly meetings that consist of up to 80 women. This year, there were more than 100 women and 55 volunteers who participated in Pamper Me Night, which was held at St. Luke’s The Woodlands Hospital.
Breast Friends is open to all women in Montgomery County who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, regardless of where they are being treated. The meetings include small group discussions and an educational session that covers topics such as nutrition, sexuality, bone health, psychological issues, exercise and dealing with children.
Addressing the needs of younger members, Dr. Loren Rourke, a breast cancer surgeon, and Katie Borths, a physician assistant, lead a group discussion for women with small children. In addition, Mark Stanley, an oncology nurse, conducts a support group called “The Men of Breast Friends,” which serves husbands, significant others and family members.
Breast Friends The Woodlands
Breast Friends The Woodlands meets on the second Wednesday of each month from 7-9 p.m at St Luke’s The Woodlands Hospital, which is near Highway 242 and I-45. This group is open to women of all ages and all stages of breast cancer and has been in existence for more than 14 years. For more information, call 713-563-0050 and choose option 1 or 2.
This story appears in the May 2012 edition of Motivate.
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