Three years ago, I was diagnosed with a rare cancer that had already metastastized throughout my abdomen: incurable. I was forty years old, with a loving husband, two children under the age of three, no other family living nearby, and terrified. My oncology team focused on alleviating my physical symptoms. I turned elsewhere for emotional support: The Wellness Community of Greater Boston, starting with a weekly support group. By the following year, TWC had become my second home: I found comfort and support in yoga classes, a writing for wellness group, memoir writing groups, couples therapy, workshops on topics such as cancer-related fatigue or advances in cancer treatment, even a puppet show enjoyed with my husband and children.
Just this past January, as I was mourning the news that TWC was being forced to close its doors, I received a call from my support group facilitator, Susan Englander. First, she wanted to know how I was doing. Second, she made sure I knew that our group—in fact, all the support groups–would, indeed, continue to meet, that very week and into the future. She, and other former TWC clinicians—Harriet, Joyce, Nancy, Catherine, and Claire—all of whom have the undying gratitude of myself and so many others, were determined not to abandon those of us who had already felt betrayed by our bodies, our emotional needs unrecognized, ignored, or simply unmet, beyond the scope of even the most well-meaning and compassionate physicians. For nearly a year now, the dedicated clinicians of FCT have continued to offer the support services so many of us had come to count on, as well as to open them to the newly diagnosed–all without funding.
Early in my own diagnosis, I often felt so alone when surrounded by people. Going through daily life–at the playground, the grocery store, the movie theater–the invisibility of my difference made it all the worse, isolated in the knowledge that I—unlike all the lucky, healthy people around me—was dying, from cancer. As I’ve made connections, however, realizing that I am not alone, my focus has shifted. My cancer is just as incurable as it was three years ago, but—thanks to the support of so many people in this community—I am living with it, facing it, together with others who have formed and offer to all who need it, a community of hope.