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Three Generations of Hope

At the Cancer Support Community, we know that cancer affects the entire family. That’s why we offer programs for patients, survivors, caregivers, partners, and children – so no one has to be alone in this fight.

Sharon Wannberg, her mother, and her daughter represent three generations of Cancer Support Community participants. Sharon has graciously agreed to share her story with us.

ImageI am a single mom who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of tonsil cancer in February of 2012. My mom offered to leave her home and life in Texas and come to California to help my daughter and me though my treatment.

I heard about the Cancer Support Community from my oncology nurse before I started chemo and radiation.  She mentioned that they have really good programs.  I suppose this resonated with me because I found myself researching a little online.  I saw that they had events running during the day that I thought my mom would enjoy, like the knitting circle, quilting and yoga. I was also impressed that they had a program for kids with parents who have cancer, called Kids Circle.  I thought it would be good for my six-year-old daughter.

I honestly didn’t think I needed it for myself but thought more for my daughter and mother. Once I started attending the support group I realized how much I really did need the Cancer Support Community for me.

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Sharon is pictured with her fellow group members Paul (L) and Gary (R), both of whom are also survivors of throat/tonsil cancer.

I am a pretty private person and I am not one to share my feelings with just anyone, but the first time I went to group I met two people with the same type of cancer and felt an immediate connection to those people.  In addition there was so much strength and fight within the other members.  It made quite an impression.  There have been emotions and feelings that surfaced in the group that I didn’t even know I had.  I felt so much better once I acknowledged they were there.

The Family and Friends support group helped my mom. She had to leave my dad and her friends in Texas so she could help me and be there to take care of my daughter when I was unable.  I imagine that without emotional support she would feel quite isolated.  The Cancer Support Community gave her an outlet to discuss the issues involved in taking care of someone with cancer – to know that she is not alone.  I noticed that she always seemed more relaxed and a bit happier after her group meetings.

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Sharon’s parents, Paul and Lynn, are pictured with Brielle and Kayo Matsumoto, CSCVVSB Intern, who provided one-on-one play therapy to Brielle.

As for Brielle, my six-year-old daughter, I noticed that the sicker I got, the more her behavior changed.  It was like she was reverting. I got her into one-on-one counseling at the Cancer Support Community.  There she established a nice bond with her counselor, who met with her for about a month.  The counselor noted that Brielle was fine developmentally, which was a great relief.  Brielle attends Kids Circle and LOVES it.  I think it helps her to talk about having a parent with cancer with other kids that have close connections to cancer.

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Sharon’s group at CSCVVSB, left to right: Julie, Paul, Gary, Helen, Beth, Sharon, and Carole

Currently my treatment is over and my last scan shows no detectable signs of cancer. The treatment was difficult and very painful. The recovery has been a much longer and tougher road than I imagined.  I lean heavily on my support group.  The people in my group give me strength, encouragement and fight.  It is a sanctuary I can go to and talk about my cancer with people who truly understand.  I always leave group feeling better and stronger then when I walked in the door. 

In addition to my support group, I recently participated in Cancer Fit, a twelve-week fitness program offered by the Cancer Support Community. Before I got sick I was relatively active.  My treatment left me very weak and tired, to the point where walking up stairs left me breathless.  It was great to have a resource where I could get back into shape in a very controlled and monitored environment.  Robb Bolton, the instructor, is great and very motivating.   He designed a program specific for me starting with stability and moving into strength building.  As a small group we worked out twice a week for twelve weeks. I could feel my energy coming back throughout the process.  I could be so tired before a workout but somehow I found the strength to get through my workout and it left me feeling really great after it was done.  Our cycle for the program ended a few weeks ago and I am continuing to stay active and have started training for a 5K race.  Stairs are no longer an obstacle.  Great thanks to Robb Bolton of Studio 7 Fitness for making this possible!

I am so grateful to have had access to the Cancer Support Community.  It helped me see that I was not helpless or alone in my struggle.

To make a donation or learn more, visit www.cancersupportvvsb.org.

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2 Comments Post a comment
  1. michael lohnberg #

    Great article that should be seen by all medical personnel involved with cancer patients and by all cancer patients.

    December 15, 2012
    • Thank you, Michael! We are so grateful to all our participants who share their stories with us so that others may be inspired.

      December 15, 2012

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