When you or a loved one has been diagnosed with breast cancer (or really, with any type of cancer), it’s important to have people that you can comfortably ask for help and places where you can seek out that assistance. Whether you prefer a more “sedate” setting or an actively engaged one, there are many types of cancer support services available throughout Southern Nevada.
When Terry Maurer was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005, she went through chemotherapy, surgery and radiation, and, after searching for a support group that fit her needs, eventually formed her own activity-based one.
“There were lots of what I call ‘roundtable’ groups around,” she says. “But I felt like I really needed to get my body moving again to best help with my recovery.”
Recalling a dragon boat she had paddled while in Asia 20 years earlier, Maurer thought this might be a good way to get others in similar situations off their couches and on the road to better health.
“It was really an issue of recovery for me. Dignity Health was just getting its dragon boat program started and they contacted me,” says Maurer. “That’s how the Pink Paddler Floating Support Group began. We initially tried to build our team with just women cancer survivors, but found we were a few people short, so we called on friends and other cancer supporters.”
Maurer says that coming together to exercise is just a small part of the overall experience.
“The Pink Paddlers really build camaraderie and friendship,” she says. “We want everyone that’s going through this to know that, first and foremost, they’re not alone. We are literally all in the same boat and on the same boat!
“Our group is like a sisterhood and when we push away from the Lake Las Vegas shore, it’s like we are metaphorically pushing away from our problems.”
Today, nearly eight years after the formation of the Rose Regatta Dragon Boat Festival, which will be held Saturday at Lake Las Vegas, Maurer has had the opportunity to coach more than 200 local women in the sport. In addition to the physical benefits of building cardio capacity and improving physical strength during and after chemotherapy, many valuable friendships have blossomed.
“We have formed a deep vein of long, ongoing bonds. In fact, three of the women on our team are original team members from 2009,” she says.
Even more rewarding is the fact that the Dignity Health program uses the event as a fundraiser to help others in the community who are going through breast cancer, by providing funds to many uninsured women for mammograms, biopsies and other medical services.
Another place to find support is the Caring Place, a program of Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation. Dedicated to easing the journey of those touched by cancer, this facility provides no-cost programs and services to support, educate and empower those who have or have had cancer, their family members, friends and caregivers.
Not a replacement for medical care but an enhancement of mind, body and soul, the Caring Place offers complementary care, including support groups, massage therapy, yoga, craniosacral therapy, art and jewelry-making classes, nutrition lectures, guided imagery and other healing arts.
Established in 2008 by two Las Vegas women, oncologist Dr. Mary Ann Allison and her patient Connie Bernstein, the Caring Place was the culmination of a long-harbored dream to open a facility that would be able to provide free programs and services to complement medical care for cancer. The Caring Place merged with Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation in 2011.
“On behalf of our organization, we are so grateful that we were able to add the beautiful Caring Place as one of the many programs to serve this wonderful community in which we live,” says Jeffrey Gordon, president and chief executive officer of Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation. “Although we serve many different patrons with all types of cancer, we are especially pleased of the work we have the privilege of doing with our breast cancer population. Of all of those we serve at the Caring Place, breast cancer patrons represent just over 48 percent of our total population.
“It is such a pleasure to serve them and all those that we so lovingly and passionately try to do all that we can through our 45 programs and services. There is no place like hope, and that is what is offered here in a very safe and comforting place at no charge.”
Gay Rollins is a survivor who knows firsthand the importance of this community resource.
“The Breast Cancer Group at the Caring Place is a blessing for all the women who attend,” she says. “We get to share ideas with others who understand what we are going through. Thank you to all who donate their time to help us.”
“The thing I love about the Caring Place is everyone there is in the same boat — our new (or old) friend, cancer, brought us together,” says Danette Adams, another survivor who has partaken in the center’s services. “The support you feel from others during a Zentangle drawing class or in a support group or even the caring you feel from the yoga group leader make you feel like you’re not alone in this crazy world of cancer.”
The Caring Place recently started a new Woman to Woman support group, which is for women diagnosed with cancer or those in survivorship mode. Meeting every other Monday evening, this group is tailored to the specific issues that women experience through their cancer journey. According to The Caring Place, the group welcomes all women who want to “share with us and together we’ll navigate womanhood.”