When Gloucester’s Diana Rosenbaum was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1985 her only option for treatment was in Sydney - and support groups were unheard of.
In 1998, Diana was approached by medical staff to start a support group in the region, having been through the journey herself.
“The nurses helped me get it started,’ Diana said.
At first, the group covered a large region, with Diana being asked to travel from Taree to Dungog, to talk with women pre- and post-operation. She was trained as a counsellor, helping women and their families through their journey with cancer.
Since then the treatment options have opened up a little closer to home and with it, a larger network of people to offer support.
These days the Gloucester Breast Cancer Support Group covers from Krambach to Stroud, with more members trained to provide counselling. They meet the first Monday of every month from 2pm at the Gloucester Senior Citizen Centre, where they listen and talk, offering support to one another through friendship and understanding. Support is also provided on a one on one basis.
“We get referrals from doctors, nurses, family and friends,” she said. “Then we make contact to offer support.”
The group also offers support by providing petrol and food vouchers to patients undergoing treatment, and even taking care of the school lunches, all made possible by donations from organisations and people within the community.
“Donations sometimes come from family and friends when we lose a member,” Diana explained. “Some families request donations be made instead of flowers being sent.
“People are very generous.”
Members also put together hospital packs for women undergoing surgery, which include luxury toiletries items, and they send flowers.
Every second year the group joins with the Gloucester Prostate Cancer Group to hold a thanksgiving and remembrance service in honour of those they have lost and to give thanks for still being here.
Some larger communities have different groups for women with different types of cancers, but in Gloucester there’s only one.
In acknowledgment of that fact, about five years ago, the group opened its doors to all women with any cancer.
For Diana, the group is an important part of her life, having been the president for almost 20 years.
“So many friendships have been formed,” she said. “And so much support.”
“Especially when we lose a member. We all know we could have been that person.”
For more information about the group, contact president Diana Rosenbaum 6558 1515 or 0428 581 384.