Cancer support group forms at church

Published 6:54 pm Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Hats and flannel blankets are collected and sorted to distribute to people needing such items as they endure chemo or radiation therapies to combat cancer. — Stephen H. Cowles Tidewater News


When Dawn Holland discovered in 2017 she had developed Stage 3 breast cancer, her reaction was one that is familiar to many women who have experienced the same condition.

“I was shocked and frightened. I was not sure what to do,” said Holland, who has since fully recovered thanks in large part to her self-described good fortune of finding a “real good surgeon.”

But peace of mind didn’t automatically return with the defeat of the cancer. The ordeal, which also included hair loss, left her shell-shocked. While the hair has since come back, the damage done to her lymph nodes under her right arm was permanent. Five of the nine had developed cancer. Those nodes, which serve as blood filters, had to be removed. As a side-effect, she can no longer have her blood pressure taken or needles inserted there for medical purposes. Otherwise, lymphedema can develop. This is a swelling that can occur because of the nodes’ removal.

“Physically, I was OK. Emotionally, no. I was distraught. I looked for a support group to help me cope, but there were no more active groups — they had folded,” Holland continued.

She then approached her pastor at Franklin Baptist, the Rev. Dr. Charles Qualls, about creating one at the church.

He didn’t have to think twice about the idea and agreed.

“It was a no-brainer,” said Qualls.

So every third Wednesday of the month, starting at 6:30 p.m., survivors, caregivers and even current patients are invited to the intimate setting of the church parlor. The first session took place just last month, which Holland describes as “a wonderful group.”

Charity Sexton from Sentara Obici Hospital in Suffolk is facilitating the gathering. Different topics such as depression, and guest speakers such as pharmacists, could be scheduled at future meetings.

Should the numbers outgrow the venue, then another could be formed to meet on another day.

Holland has also been active in establishing what she calls chemotherapy kits. These include hats and flannel blankets because treatment can make a patient very chilly. There are also reading materials or coloring books. Ginger-flavored drops to prevent or reduce nausea, Burt’s Bees lip balm, port covers, lotion and liquids to rehydrate the mouth are also included.

The pastor has been pleased with how the congregation has responded in helping keep the kits supplied

“Our people have embraced it,” he said.

To learn more about the support group or chemotherapy kits, call the church 562-5135.