by Kate Chamberlin
(Reprinted from “Insight: The Voice of The American Council of the Blind of New York, Inc.,” Fall 2020.)
On March 2, 2020, when the diagnosis of ER+/PR+, invasive ductal carcinoma registered in my brain, the music didn’t stop, but I sure missed a beat.
The experience my mother had with breast cancer in 1976 rang loud and clear in my memory. She went from robust to dust in six months. I knew my cancer was early, stage 1A, so I tuned up my research skills and began to compose a plan. I was determined to choreograph my dance with cancer to have a different finale.
I read “Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book: Sixth Edition” by Love, Susan M.; Lindsey, Karen; Love, Elizabeth, which I downloaded from BARD (DB82608). I also downloaded “The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen: Nourishing, Big-Flavor Recipes for Cancer Treatment and Recovery,” by Rebecca Katz and Mat Edelson (DB96582).
A friend told me about the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester. There are other regional coalitions in New York, and this one was the nearest to my home. Due to the COVID-19 shutdowns, and meetings going to Zoom rooms, it was very convenient for me to attend virtual meetings.
“In this time of COVID-19, business is not as usual and we are working to stay connected with our survivor community,” Jennifer Gaylord, BCCR Program Director, stated in an e-mail. “We have diverse, supportive groups of women breast and GYN survivors, who are newly diagnosed, actively in treatment, or many years out to converse about the issues that pertain to them.”
The women I’ve virtually met are wonderful, open, and honest about their situations, but something was still off-key for me. My dance card wasn’t full. Then, through an American Council of the Blind virtual community membership meeting, I heard about and contacted Linda Porelle.
The ACB Women’s Breast Cancer Support Group meets on the first Tuesday each month from 8 to 9:30 p.m. Eastern via a teleconference line. This is a support group for women who are blind and have been living with breast cancer. Whether you are recently diagnosed or a long-term survivor, you are welcome to join us. While we identify each attendee by name, confidentiality is maintained to enable each of us to share our concerns, issues, and support one another at whatever step we are at in our dance with cancer.
The group is facilitated by Linda Porelle and Lori Scharff, two social workers who are volunteering their time.
“Lori and I have been facilitating this monthly group since December 2008,” Linda e-mailed. “We have met courageous women from all around this country, some of whom joined us very early on. They have shared their cancer journeys with us, and most importantly, with each other. Our members are warm, open-hearted women who know what you may be experiencing because each one has been there herself.”
Now, I’m not alone in choreographing my dance with cancer. My dance card is full of new friends, so let the band play on. I’ll tango through the biopsy; cha-cha during the lumpectomy; foxtrot through the radiation; and waltz throughout the rest of my life.
For further information about the ACB Women-sponsored Breast Cancer Support Group, contact committee co-chairs and group facilitators Linda Porelle, [email protected], or Lori Scharff at [email protected].
For information about the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester, N.Y., send a message to [email protected].
To reach Kate Chamberlin, email her at [email protected].