Breast Cancer Awareness: Women Supporting Women always there to help

If there’s a single universal truth it’s this: Women are strong allies for each other. They are champions, defenders.

In times of illness, there is mutual support and a no-nonsense fighting spirit, obvious at Women Supporting Women.

Founded in 1993, it’s designed for those diagnosed with cancer, who need services.

“It started in Sue’s car,” said staff member Cindy Feist, recalling Sue Revelle worked at the hospital at the time. A cancer patient asked her where she could find a support group, and attend meetings, but Revelle realized they were non-existent.

She, Carol Prager and Harriette Fine, assembled in their homes and organized Women Supporting Women.

Now, the office is on Belmont Avenue and services reach clients from the bottom of Delaware to the top Virginia, and from the beach to the bay, Feist said.

Under the direction of Revelle, the organization has a $140,000 annual budget met with money from grants, fund-raising events and donations, and with help from tireless volunteers. To get involved, call 410-548-7880.

On Nov. 13, there will be a Magic of Hope Gala, a formal event, at Dove Pointe.

Catered by The Milestone in Easton, it will feature magician Michael Cantori of Baltimore. Tickets cost $50 each or $375 for a table of eight.

Proceeds are used to provide every woman with what she needs. It might be a wig or hat, bra or support group meeting.  No money is exchanged, and nobody is turned away.

Everybody who is newly diagnosed receives a tote bag filled with information about chemotherapy, radiation, recurrence, the children of survivors and pillows for use after surgery.

Also available are:

  • Post-surgery comfort Piglet Pillows, to provide arm support after surgery.
  • Mentoring services, by someone matched to the client’s age and circumstances.
  • Support group meetings led by a licensed facilitator and held each month in various locations.
  • A monthly newsletter.
  • Wigs, hats and scarves.
  • A lift-chair program to lend automatic recliners for those recovering from double-mastectomies.
  • Educational materials for speeches, seminars, and health fairs.
  • Guest speakers for large and small groups.
  • A lending library with more than 500 books and movies.

“All this help is a pat on the back for those with cancer,” Feist said.

“We have survivors who come back after recovery to help us and they are just amazing. They are go-getters, getting behind other survivors saying, ‘You can make it through this. You’ve got this diagnosis. You’ve got our support. Other people have gotten through this and you can, too,’” she said.

Volunteers make pink ribbons, which are heavily requested in October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Sports teams, churches, colleges and other organizations distribute them.

Volunteers also help set up events and clean up afterward.

“It’s great to see people who walked through our door walk out again with a smile,” Feist said.

“Women Supporting Women is a grass-roots organization. We are here for awareness, education and support to help empower all those who are making life-changing decisions and provide comfort measures during cancer treatment,” she said.

“With no national ties, we rely completely on our community to help us provide free services to our neighbors, friends and families right here on Delmarva,” she added.

Services are much appreciated and survivors’ stories are posted on the Web site.

Tom Morris, who was told he had breast cancer, which is rare in men, in 1952, wrote about being diagnosed when he was 27.

“(I was) married with a small child. I was told I had only six months to live. I could not believe that my life would soon be over,” he wrote.

He credited his doctor for performing a mastectomy, removing his breast and lymph nodes.

He declined cobalt treatments and tried to live a normal life.

His wife, Anna, is also a survivor. She was diagnosed in 1995 and had a recurrence in 2002.

“Knowing somebody cares makes them feel so much better,”  Feist said.

“And hugs. Hugs help so much.”

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