Imagine being called into your doctor’s office and being told you have a lump in your breast or that the chemo did not take and it’s time to consider other options. Millions of women and men are facing this dilemma in their lives. The issue is not the illness but how do you cope with the illness.

During a life threatening illness many people seek additional help. Coping with a diagnosis is never easy and family is often there to assist but, they don’t always understand what is happening and what you are feeling. Support is the key to survival with any illness. How are people being
supported through their journey and is this support helping them to cope with their life threatening illness?


Sarita Oaks Murray

Cindy Carter, breast cancer survivor and executive director of The Cancer Support Foundation always answers the phone ready to provide support for a fellow cancer survivor in need.

“We help 800-900 families a year, providing assistance with evictions, lights, food, etc”.

The Cancer Support Foundation provides financial support for living expenses but unfortunately the organization does not help to financially support medical costs. Financial support is not the only support needed during a life threatening illness. Emotional support is necessary as well.

“I don’t believe misery loves company but someone’s support can really help,” said Sarita Oaks Murray, owner of Spartea Day Spa for girls and the executive director for Blink Pink Inc. Sarita is also a breast cancer survivor. Her mission is to educate, celebrate, salute and support women who have or have had breast cancer. During her battle, friends were her support. “My support were the people I could call when I felt like I couldn’t get out of bed, the people who took my kids to school, who prayed for me when I couldn’t, who gave me encouragement. Those were the people who gave me support.” Emotional support reminds the patient that family members and friends are there to help in whatever ways are needed.

Dr. Miles Harrison Jr

Studies from the American Psychological Association show, “The breast cancer patients who participated in the groups had a 45 percent lower risk of their cancer coming back and a 56 percent lower risk of dying from breast cancer because of attending support groups.”

Support is vital to the healing process, but how often and with whom?

C.J. Corneliussen-James, co-founder and director of advocacy of Metavivor conducts a group three times a month. She finds it very difficult to select one day a month because many people have to work, go to doctor appointments or fulfill other life obligations. Corneliussen-James finds that more people come to support group meetings when they have free will and “Allow people to talk even when it’s not their turn.”

Dr. Miles Harrison Jr., division head of general surgery at University of Maryland – Midtown Campus, formed Sisters Surviving, an African-American breast cancer support group in 1994. Dr. Harrison recognized that the “psychological well being was just as important as the physical well being.”

Sisters Surviving provided further diagnosis information for woman to relate to. Support makes the woman feel better.” While support doesn’t remove the burden, it does become the comfort during the journey, and makes the coping process easier.