The experience of working as a research assistant with the Advanced Breast Cancer Group was, for me, unique and unexpected. While working for the service, I was enlightened by hearing of the experiences that women have of living with a terminal diagnosis. I quickly learnt that these stories are varied, marked by thedifferent personalities, families, and life experiences that form theconstellation of each individual. I was privileged to meet women in the group, as well as their friends and family members, and see the immense joy that being a member in such a close knit group brings to people who face great suffering. I had the great privilege of bearing witness to conversations by Mary and Pia who hold the women in the group (both past and present) in very high regard, and have incredible respect for their experiences. I was intrigued by the offering of this bespoke group that honoured the individual rather than casting labels upon those who may fit into a similar diagnostic category. The ABCG knows that each one comes with their own perspectives, challenges, family, priorities, values – all those things that make us truly unique. I appreciate that it never seeks to treat a “community” but journey together with individuals, bringing them into community with one another, and acknowledging the healing power of free expression in relationships. I hope that this group continues to see and prioritise the individual, in whatever it grows to become in the near or distant future.
“.. As a Counselling Psychologist and Psychotherapist in private practice I have learned from my clients of the considerable value of this group in providing care, support and guidance to women who have a terminal illness. This group, led by two experienced and dedicated psychotherapists through telephone group meetings, provide women with a support network that is not obtainable in any other way. Women with Advanced Breast Cancer face many personal challenges including a sense of isolation and the ongoing experience of grief and loss. This group provides a unique experience of their suffering being recognised and shared which eases their load and that of their loved ones.”
Fellow Australian Psychological Society, PPAA, BSANZ Accred.
“…They are both well trained and competent psychotherapists, and bring to their work with women with terminal breast cancer a realism tinged with concern and compassion. They are able to foster an atmosphere of collegiality and honesty, which enables the women in the group to face the inevitability of death while at the same time supporting and fostering the living of life with vitality.
The group provides a home as it were for the women’s feelings, no matter what they are, – feelings which often are otherwise repressed and hidden, making for despair and loneliness.”
Dr Brian Muir MB ChB FRCPsych. FRANZCP DPM Member Australian Psychoanalytic Society
Fellow, Institute of Psychoanalysis, London
“As a consultation-liaison psychiatrist with over 20 years’ experience in providing a clinical servce in oncology I am acutely aware of the complex challenges faced by women with advanced breast cancer…
For women with advanced breast cancer, participation in the group provided by your service represents one of the very few opportunities to be seen, heard and acknowledged, without having to adopt a façade of brightness to protect others.
Being able to participate by telephone is absolutely essential for women not only in regional or remote areas, but also for those whose condition limits travel for face-to-face participation in the group.
This group fills a major gap in current service provision for women with advanced breast cancer and their families and its continued funding should be regarded as a matter of critical importance.”
Dr Jane Turner, Consultation- liaison Psychiatrist, RBWH, Associate Professor, Discipline of Psychiatry, The University of Queensland
“As a Cancer Care Coordinator, I am always grateful to be able to offer women with advanced cancer the opportunity to join this group. Women have often told me that they feel supported just knowing that the group is there if they choose.
As the facilitator of a breast cancer support group, I know that it is beyond the capacity of many general cancer support groups to accommodate the information and support needs of women with advanced cancer. It is my experience that those women living with advanced breast cancer who attend general support groups do not speak openly of their advanced disease, out of consideration of the emotional needs of other women who are newly diagnosed and going through treatment. Many of their issues would be too confronting for women recently diagnosed with breast cancer. For these women to have the opportunity and the choice to be part of a professionally led support group, where the women understand what they are going through, is extremely valuable.
The ABC group plays such an important role. There are few group facilitators (myself included) who would feel comfortable in running a group that dealt expressly with the complex issues that confront women with advanced breast cancer. I especially value the fact that telephone linking affords rural and regional women the opportunity to be part of this group from the comfort and privacy of their home. The need to travel to a support group would be a barrier for most of my rural women that is overcome by your innovative approach to the running of the group.”
Marion Strong, Cancer Care Coordinator, Toowoomba Hospital, Toowoomba.