Supporting the Support Group by Dr.Rebecca Weintraub, Ph.D

The following was written by Rebecca Weintraub, Ph.D, a 10-year breast cancer survivor, former group participant and current board member CSC-RB.

Like most people, I thought I didn’t need an outside support group. But, some studies show longer survival rates for patients who have attended formalized support groups. That was enough for me. And the Cancer Support Community-Redondo Beach Tuesday Night Early Diagnosis Breast Cancer support group was phenomenal. They were strong for me when I was feeling defeated. They were optimistic when all I could see was a black hole. They showed me how to survive diagnosis, chemo, radiation, hair loss … the works. And then, when I was strong, I got to give it all back to the next women who joined us.

So, when there was a fundraiser half-marathon to support CSC-RB a year and a half after my diagnosis, I decided it was my turn to pay it forward.

So there I was, at the last mile of the Vancouver Marathon in 2004. I had only walked the half-marathon, but for a woman who had finished her year of cancer treatment four months before, it was a hell of a milestone. I was walking with my friend and fellow survivor Rosie. There had been music all through the streets and byways of Vancouver all morning but here, at the home stretch, there were lines of people but no music. I complained to Rosie who gave me a look I had come to know … and dread. Unfettered by any self-consciousness or concerns for (and I mean concerns for) the people lining the route, she began to sing. “Bye bye, Miss American Pie. Took my Chevy to the levy but the levy was dry…”

Drats. She had chosen a song that I thought I was the only person who knew all the words. Throwing caution, and anything that resembled the original tune, to the winds, I joined in. The people on the route began to clap and occasionally even joined in.

All at once, a woman was throwing her arms around us crying. It was Eurie—our marathon coach. She had been waiting for us to make sure we made it over that finish line. We cried, she cried, we hugged, and she told us to go finish our race.

Suddenly, we could see the huge timer. We were at 3:55:47. It became critically important to me that we beat four hours. So, I told Rosie to begin to run. Now, running at the end of a 13.1 mile half-marathon when you never trained for any running is incredibly foolhardy. But it didn’t matter. I needed to beat 4 hours, and Rosie was going to support me. Of course we forgot that we hadn’t begun the race at the start of the line and the sensors on our shoes would give us our real time. So although we crossed the finish line at 3:58:43 barely able to breathe, our real time was 3:50:27.

Nice, but it didn’t matter. What mattered was that between us, Rosie and I had raised more than $15,000 for the Community. What mattered even more is that together with us, the rest of the Tuesday Night Early Diagnosis Support Group raised more than $22,000. Those ladies couldn’t run, or walk, a half-marathon, but they could, and did, raise money for the place that had become our home away from home. We pooled our strength, we pooled our contacts, we pooled our fundraising efforts so that our sisters—those who would need the Tuesday Night Early Diagnosis Breast Cancer Support group in the future—would have it.

It’s really pretty simple. Until there is a cure, CSC-RB must endure.

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