October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and a local survivor is learning much from fellow survivors at a support group program.
Gloria McPherson, 68, of Riverdale and formerly of Van Nest and Longwood, says she is learning a great deal and experiencing emotional support through the SHARE program at Jacobi Medical Center, a support group for women with breast and ovarian cancer.
McPherson said that the program, which is found not only at Jacobi but also at hospitals elsewhere, had helped her deal with the breast cancer diagnosis she received in late 2012 and its aftermath.
The diagnosis, she said, came as a surprise and a shock.
“When I was diagnosed, it was like an out of body experience,” said McPherson, adding that it was love for her partner, her three children, adopted children and more than 30 grandchildren that got her through the tough time.
The support from her doctor and the medical staff at Jacobi and other women dealing with similar situations at SHARE also helped, she said.
She made the heart wrenching decision to have a mastectomy on her left breast in 2013.
That experience revealed her inner strenghth and her commitment to embracing all the good around her.
“The word cancer is feared and it’s horrible,” she said. “I learned that I am fighter. It gave me courage, and a greater zest for life.”
McPherson volunteers for several SHARE events at the hospital, a continuation of the volunteer work the retired social worker did on behalf of children in the past, she said.
And while what happens in the SHARE survivor support sessions are private, she can attest to their usefulness, she added.
For her support of the Jacobi SHARE program, Making Strides and the American Cancer Society gave McPherson an award in 2014 for her fearless fighting of the disease, she said.
According to a North Bronx Health Network spokesman, both Jacobi Medical Center and North Central Bronx Hospital offer SHARE programs.
The spokesman said that patients could let their oncology support team at either hospital know if they are interested in the joining the group.
SHARE’s stated mission is to create and sustain a supportive network and community for women suffering from these cancers.
The program brings together women and their families and friends to be with others who have experienced ovarian or breast cancer.
The goals are to foster an opportunity for a better quality of life and health care through empowerment, education and advocacy.
Women and their families and support network have the opportunities to exchange information, as well as hope, strength and support.
SHARE was founded in 1976 by Dr. Eugene Thiessen, a doctor specializing in breast cancer. All services are free of charge.
The larger SHARE organization also runs a toll-free hot line where women who are experiencing breast and ovarian cancer related issues can learn more about handling the disease. That number is (866) 891-2392, with information available in English, Spanish and ten other languages.