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Navigating a Way Through Cancer

Focus: Navigating a Way Through Cancer

Heather Johnson's second bout with melanoma was more serious than the first and required extensive surgery. The surgery removed Heather's cancer, but not her fears or thirst for authoritative information about the disease. A Shady Grove support group and Cancer Navigator have helped Heather put her feelings into focus and zero in on reliable facts.

"No matter how much people try to understand, there's no way to explain how you're feeling or how your mind is dealing with it," Heather discovered. Only fellow cancer survivors know.

Within months of her surgery, Heather was welcomed with open arms by her General Cancer Support Group, one of eight cancer care groups established by Shady Grove and part of Shady Grove's comprehensive care for patients and their families. Group members understood the irony of her feelings: because her cancer could not be treated with radiology or chemotherapy, Heather felt helpless to fight it. Attending the support group has given her a way both to share these feelings and realize how much she's actually doing for her mental and physical well-being.

Facilitating the group is Sharon Francz, a Cancer Care Navigator who works closely with Shady Grove's Life Beyond Cancer Program. "Sharon is very supportive, caring, and understanding about cancer," Heather says. "There is so much information out there, you don't know what to believe. To have someone who can answer your questions and provide guidance has been great."

Marguerite Johnson, Heather's mother, attends Heather's support group as well as a separate group for caregivers. According to Marguerite, the perspectives of fellow caregivers have been invaluable. "I was welcomed into the group from the moment I walked in the door. This is a place where I can freely express my anger, fear, and confusion. It is also a place where there is hope and, yes laughter. I always leave feeling supported on this journey we are all on, and hopeful for the future. Without Sharon, none of us would have this wonderful opportunity to grow and heal."

Says Heather, "I realized you just can't focus on the fear your cancer might come back. If it does, you'll deal with it. But in the meantime, you know you're doing what you can to heal your body and your frame of mind."

We Want to Hear From You

Do you have a story that you would like to share with us? Sharing your experience at Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center will inspire others and help us to recognize the efforts of those who made a difference in your life!