Participant Profile: Ann Coons
In July 2012, almost a year into retirement from a corporate law job, I was diagnosed with stage 1 invasive breast cancer. After years of routine and normal annual mammograms, I naively thought that I had eluded breast cancer. Appointments with my surgeon, radiologist and oncologist followed quickly after the diagnosis and treatment decisions were made, with second-guessing as I read books and blogs, searched cancer websites and listened to other women’s experiences with breast cancer. My doctors and family were kind and helpful throughout treatment, and I managed well until radiation was almost complete.
Sitting alone in the kitchen one morning, I felt that I could not simply close the door on cancer and proceed as usual “pre-diagnosis.” I would have a reminder of cancer when I swallowed a pill each morning for the next five years to complete treatment.
I had read a copy of the Cancer Support Community’s monthly calendar of events in the radiologist’s waiting room and remembered driving by The Wellness Community on Hampshire Road many times before it was renamed the Cancer Support Community. “Sharing the Traditions” 2001 Holiday Homes Tour Cookbook that I bought on the tour when my husband and I first moved to Westlake Village sits on my kitchen shelf as a reminder. I decided to call the Center for an appointment to explore support groups and soon joined Anne Gessert’s Thursday morning support group.
The calendar offers an array of classes, lectures and gatherings to appeal to everyone, and I chose a few, including Susan Speer’s helpful nutrition cooking demonstrations and Dance for Wellness, where my husband and I rediscovered our two left feet. I now attend the recently formed drop-in support group for stage 1 and 2 breast cancer facilitated by Marty Nason and Kayo Matsumoto.
The support groups have been the key to help me resume where I left off when I was diagnosed with cancer and to gain some perspective on the disease. For anyone who has just been diagnosed and is hesitant about joining a support group, I’d encourage them to call or visit the Cancer Support Community and talk to one of the facilitators, who are all professionally trained, and explore whether a group might be helpful.
I’ve found the support groups welcoming and warm, with members ready to support each other as their physical and emotional needs change from week to week. I’ve been able to listen and talk in the Center’s warm living room settings to others who understand first hand the lasting effects of a cancer diagnosis. I’ve also experienced sadness in the groups, but it has been far outweighed by hope, persistence, insight, acceptance, candor and humor. I’ve met exceptional men and women who quickly lost their stranger status because of a common diagnosis.
The Cancer Support Community has helped me regain equilibrium to enjoy family and friends, volunteer, putter in the garden, “renovate” my 1950’s dollhouse, travel and go to movies or art museums or wherever the spirit moves. I take comfort that the resources of the Cancer Support Community have been and will be there for me, and I am grateful for all of the staff, professionals, volunteers and other cancer patients who make the Center a treasure in our community.