“I am not really a ‘group person’ and shy away from cancer support groups in general but I think this group is very special as we are all fighting the same or a similar battle and need all the help/support available.”
Advanced Breast Cancer Group
The Advanced Breast Cancer Group is a unique service that offers women all over Queensland an opportunity to meet and talk with other women. Those who join usually say that they would like to know how other women manage – manage the illness, the treatment, the decisions, and many other questions about living with the disease. This group provides the time and the space to do this. It also provides an opportunity to make strong and lasting friendships which nourish and support members of the group through what is often described as a roller-coaster ride.
Why a Group?
Groups have for many years been used to assist people with cancer to overcome isolation and provide an opportunity for mutual support.
Most women join this group to meet other women with advanced breast cancer and find out how they cope with living with the disease. They see one another living their lives, participating in the world, and sharing the lessons they have learned along the way, and are able to offer their own experiences to others in the group.
About this Group
The Advanced Breast Cancer Group provides an opportunity for women to talk freely with other women with advanced breast cancer, to share their experience of diagnosis and treatment, to explore fears about having a life threatening illness and to find ways of living with cancer.
There is no set agenda, so women are free to talk about anything they like – how they are going, treatment and side effects, relationships with family and friends, sexual and financial matters, and so on.
It is a supportive-expressive group and is modelled on the work of Dr David Spiegel (Stanford University, California, USA), author of Living Beyond Limits: New help and hope for facing life threatening illness and Group therapy for Cancer Patients (co authored with Catherine Classen PhD).
“This group has been invaluable to me. I stand in awe of the courage, dignity, humour, & loving concern of the women I have met. The collective knowledge of the group is extraordinary. I have witnessed women treading paths that no one would ever choose to venture on. It is a continual source of inspiration to me & nurtures me well when I hit the low spots.”
History of the Group
The Advanced Breast Cancer Group was started in early 1999 as a face to face group in Brisbane. In 2001, it was extended to include women in Queensland from outside Brisbane via a teleconference link. This change arose because of concern about the unmet needs of rural women and the difficulties women within the existing group were experiencing, accessing the group because of distance or illness. It has been running ever since, funded through a variety of sources. It is currently funded by Queensland Health.
How does the Group work?
Each woman who participates has an initial interview, either in person or by telephone, with the two group therapists. This provides an opportunity to consider the needs of each woman and for any questions to be answered. When possible, partners are included in this interview.
When women join they are asked to provide a photograph and ‘story’ about themselves, which can be read by other members. This helps to overcome the difficulty of not being able to see everyone.
Women are encouraged to have contact with each other. Those who attend in person often meet afterwards for coffee, and organise regular social get-togethers that include partners, family and friends; rural women sometimes attend such gatherings and meet up with women in their region when possible. This peer support occurs as a natural extension and enhances the Group.
Why is the Group professionally led?
Professionally led groups have been shown to have advantages over self-help or peer support groups, especially for people with advanced disease. The therapists are responsible for the maintenance of the Group, and for ensuring that it is a safe place where feelings can be shared. However the success depends on the collaboration that develops between the professionals who lead the group and the consumers who use it.
What happens in the Group?
It is a space in which women are free to talk and discuss anything they like. Generally they discuss how they are, family matters, children, treatment, side effects, sexual matters, financial matters, relationship matters, joys, fun, social activities, sadness, grief and how to deal or cope with things. There is a lot of humour and laughter – sometimes black humour! Women help one another navigate the system of care, treatment and support.
“We draw strength and inspiration from each other and support each other in good times and in bad.”
Nothing is taboo.
“This is the one place where we can be honest and up-front, if we wish.”
Paradoxically,facing issues of death and dying leads to a greater sense of control:- “Therapy for Women with Metastatice Breast Cancer.” Read More
What happens when someone dies?
Often it is asked ‘How does the group deal with the death of a group member’? Generally our society finds it difficult to deal with death, which can be isolating for those facing the end of life.
Women from the group do die. While it is sad and upsetting to lose these women, many women feel that “sharing the end stage of another woman’s life has been a privilege.” Most women feel “it is a part of the journey we all wonder/worry about; seeing other women deal with it gives you the inspiration that when your time comes you will be able to cope too.”
Generally members say that attending the funeral of a woman who has died is very comforting. It helps with the sadness and closure. Many women have said they feel better able to cope with the sadness if they attend the funeral.
The group runs weekly for 75 minutes.
Tel: 07 3217 2998 07 3217 2998
There is no cost for participation, either in person or via teleconference. The cost is covered by the grant from Queensland Health.
The Advanced Breast Cancer Group is sponsored by the Women’s Psychotherapy Service Inc., a network of women Psychotherapists based in Brisbane, who provide psychotherapy and counselling to women.
How do you know the Group benefits women?
Ongoing evaluation (both qualitative and quantitative) of the combined face to face and teleconference Groups have found similar benefits to face to face groups.
Ongoing evaluation has also found that the telephone is an acceptable and convenient means of delivering the service, with the added benefit that it allows sick women, and those in rural areas to access the group.
Our evaluations have also demonstrated significant improvement in positive affects (affection, joy and contentment) and significant reduction in negative affects (depression and anxiety) and stress response (intrusion and avoidance) after 12 months in the group.
(If you would like to see the power presentation given to Stanford University, then Read more.)
The Advanced Breast Cancer Group is sponsored by the Women’s Psychotherapy Service Inc., a network of women Psychotherapists based in Brisbane, who provide psychotherapy and counselling to women. For further information about this service contact 07 3217 2998 or email firstname.lastname@example.org