BIG TICKET GIVEAWAY

Win 2 tickets to every event for a year! Click here to enter.

Present by The Daily Herald
The Herald of Everett, Washington
HeraldNet on Facebook HeraldNet on Twitter HeraldNet RSS feeds HeraldNet Pinterest HeraldNet Google Plus HeraldNet Youtube
HeraldNet Newsletters  Newsletters: Sign up | Manage  Green editions icon Green editions

Calendar


HeraldNet Headlines
HeraldNet Newsletter Delivered to your inbox each week.
Published: Wednesday, October 2, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Group for younger breast cancer patients offers refuge

  • Women talk during a breast cancer support group for women in their 30s and 40s that meets at Providence Regional Cancer Partnership the second and fou...

    Genna Martin / The Herald

    Women talk during a breast cancer support group for women in their 30s and 40s that meets at Providence Regional Cancer Partnership the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month.

  • Women talk during a breast cancer support group for women in their 30s and 40s that meets at Providence Regional Cancer Partnership the second and fou...

    Genna Martin / The Herald

    Women talk during a breast cancer support group for women in their 30s and 40s that meets at Providence Regional Cancer Partnership the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month.

  • The breast cancer support group for women in their 30s and 40s meets at Providence Regional Cancer Partnership the second and fourth Tuesdays of every...

    Genna Martin / The Herald

    The breast cancer support group for women in their 30s and 40s meets at Providence Regional Cancer Partnership the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month.

  • Earlier this year, Jen Uhler cofounded a support group for women in their 30s and 40s diagnosed with breast cancer. Uhler was diagnosed in June 2011. ...

    Genna Martin / The Herald

    Earlier this year, Jen Uhler cofounded a support group for women in their 30s and 40s diagnosed with breast cancer. Uhler was diagnosed in June 2011. The group meets at Providence Regional Cancer Partnership.

It's not the emotion you expect to hear as you walk down a hall and into a meeting of a young women's breast cancer support group.
Not just a chuckle, but full-bellied, knowing, empathetic laughter.
The group of about 12 women laughed at remembering some of the questions they have been asked: "Do you lose all your hair during chemotherapy?"
They laughed as one member recalled her first glimpse of the wigs available for women to wear during their treatments.
"We made fun of them; they look like Justin Bieber wigs," said Jen Uhler, 42, of Marysville, who helped found the group in June. She was 40 when she found the lump during a self-exam that led to her diagnosis in 2011.
Tracy Larsen, 43, of Lake Stevens, said she tried counseling before coming to the group. "I felt like I was just sitting there talking," she said.
"To another person who didn't get it?" interjected Mikki Premel, 44, of Lake Stevens, triggering another wave of laughter from group members who have experienced similar frustrations.
Yes, they do laugh a lot, group members said, but they also know they can depend on each other.
"One thing about this disease and being diagnosed young is you have this instinctual need to help someone else," said Libby Hagen, of Snohomish, who was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago when she was 39.
"All of us know it's not a joke," Hagen said. It's important for women to see other women who have been through treatment have a sense of humor, but "can talk about the fact that we've gotten hysterical and broken down and survived," she said. "It does get better."
Uhler, who works at the Providence's Comprehensive Breast Center in Everett, saw the need for a support group specifically for younger breast cancer patients.
"I would tell them I knew what they were going through," Uhler said. Sometimes she would meet them for coffee.
No support groups for breast cancer patients in their 30s and 40s existed in Snohomish County. This meant Jeanna Petzoldt, 42, of Marysville, was traveling with women from Snohomish and Arlington to a group in Seattle until June, when one in Everett was launched.
"You realize how many younger women there are going through the same thing you're going through," Petzoldt said.
The group discusses just about everything a woman can face as she is treated for breast cancer: mastectomies and reconstructive surgery, the side effects of chemotherapy, handling relationships with kids and spouses, and the fear of a recurrence.
"You get the fear every time you get a headache or pain," Hagen said. "Nobody understands that fear, that terror, except someone who's gone through cancer."
Larsen was diagnosed in July 2011 with cancer in her left breast. She struggled with whether to have surgery to remove both breasts or only her left breast, before opting for a double mastectomy.
She was treated with chemotherapy and radiation. She felt strong enough to participate in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day walk for breast cancer in September 2012. But during the walk she was plagued with back pain.
In January, she was sent to the hospital for a medical scan that showed her breast cancer had metastasized. A tumor was wedged between two vertebrae in her spine.
"They weren't sure if they could get it out, if I would be paralyzed by the surgery, or if I would come out of the surgery at all," she said.
Now, 10 months after her surgery, Larsen said she has progressed well beyond what her surgeons had predicted. "I am walking and active," she said.
The group has offered her an emotional release that she said she couldn't get elsewhere. "It's comfortable," Larsen said. "We can laugh about the experiences because we've all been through it.
"Our hair falls out. We get sick. There's things we can't eat. None of us are sitting there saying, 'I don't understand what she's talking about.'
"It's an interesting dynamic how someone can walk into the group, even on that first night, and just feel like I can tell these guys whatever is going through my mind. Someone in this room will understand what I'm feeling, because they've felt it, too."
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; salyer@heraldnet.com.
Find support
A support group for young breast cancer patients and survivors meets from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month at the Providence Regional Cancer Partnership, 1717 13th St. in Everett. For information, call Dawn Dixon at 425-297-5521.
Story tags » DiseasesPreventative medicine

Related

Share your comments: Log in using your HeraldNet account or your Facebook, Twitter or Disqus profile. Comments that violate the rules are subject to removal. Please see our terms of use. Please note that you must verify your email address for your comments to appear.

You are logged in using your HeraldNet ID. Click here to update your profile. | Log out.

Our new comment system is not supported in IE 7. Please upgrade your browser here.

comments powered by Disqus

HeraldNet highlights

Faith in her voice
Faith in her voice: Stanwood singer's voice, spark earn her notice
Chris Pratt's star rises
Chris Pratt's star rises: Lake Stevens roots keep him grounded as he hosts 'SNL'
Behind the temple gates
Behind the temple gates: Visit the ornate Alderwood Manor Buddhist sanctuary
An eye on Glacier Peak
An eye on Glacier Peak: Better monitoring will watch for activity on dangerous volcano