‘We are sisters’

Published 1:58 am Sunday, October 9, 2011

Speaking on behalf of the Bosom Buddies breast cancer support group Tuesday are (from left) Joyce Jones, Louise Cowell, Maria Duke, Janet Merta and Betty Selfridge. (WDN Photo/Jonathan Clayborne)

Louise Cowell, Janet Merta and Betty Selfridge were diagnosed with breast cancer in the early 1990s.
Maria Duke’s breast cancer metastasized to her liver in 1993.
Joyce Jones had the disease 19 years ago.
All five women are still here, still celebrating life.
And all five are seeking new members for their breast cancer support group, Bosom Buddies.
“We’ve got a good group of ladies,” said Duke, a longtime coordinator of the organization. “We not only have breast cancer in common, we’re good friends. And it extends out beyond the breast cancer.”
The 12 or 13 members of Bosom Buddies meet at 11 a.m. Tuesdays at Brown Library in Washington.
The ladies talk about their individual experiences with breast cancer. They laugh, chat about their families and prop each other up during the tough times.
Bosom Buddies is also a major player in Washington’s annual Relay for Life, which generates funds for research through the American Cancer Society.
The buddies routinely top other fundraising teams, recently reaching a goal of $17,000.
Bosom Buddies also stresses regular checkups and self-education about breast cancer.
The support group doesn’t charge membership dues, and anyone who has or has had breast cancer — men or women — is welcome to attend its meetings. For more information, call Duke at 252-946-3734.
“Not every woman needs or thinks she needs a support group,” said Cowell, “but it is comforting when you sit down and you can talk to someone who knows exactly what you’re talking about. They’ve been through it, especially the fear and the horror of first hearing that word cancer. It’s nice to know you’ve got someone you can talk to.”
Cowell added, “We are sisters.”
Like the other ladies, Jones had plenty of support from her family, friends and co-workers.
“I thought, ‘You know I don’t need to go to a support group,’” she said. “And then one day I decided to go, and it turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever decided to do in my life. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Selfridge echoed Jones.
“I had a lot of support from my family and friends, and these lovely people,” she said. “There were a lot more of us in the beginning, but we’re losing them slowly. And they’re worth fighting for.”
Merta’s now-late husband joined the ladies regularly, becoming one of the gang.
“I’ve enjoyed this group,” Merta said.
Above all, a spirit of unity prevails.
“Just being there for you is something really, really special,” said Jones, “and something you don’t understand unless you go through it, I think.”

Breast cancer — key numbers
—    Approximately 230,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in 2011.
—    Around 57,650 cases of in situ carcinoma (the earliest form of breast cancer) will be diagnosed.
—    About 39,520 women will die from breast cancer.
—    Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women.
—    There are currently more than 2.6 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.
Source: American Cancer Society, www.cancer.org