A safe haven for women with metastatic breast cancer

Here is what cancer initially took away from 66 year-old Elaine Gliksman: her physical and mental health, her independence, her joie de vivre and self-confidence. “Since my diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer three years ago, most of my time is devoted to scans, testing, chemo, doctors’ appointments and endless waiting for results,” notes Elaine. “It can be hard to fit into the real world, and it is a constant struggle not to get completely engulfed in the cancer world.”

Hope & Cope’s Breast Friends Support Group is a free resource that allows women to benefit from meaningful connections and intensely supportive friendships. Elaine calls it her “safe haven” – a place where she can express herself freely and openly with other women who understand exactly what she is going through.

“While metastatic breast cancer is treatable, it is not curable,” explains the group’s facilitator, Suzanne O’Brien. “Women like Elaine live in the shadow of constant uncertainty and vulnerability, affecting every aspect of their lives.”

When Elaine learned that her cancer had spread, she was in a long term relationship. It wasn’t long before this came to an abrupt end. For the first time in decades, she was now living on her own. Her security and confidence shaken, she worried about being a burden to her children and friends. “It’s very hard to live alone when you have metastatic cancer. There’s no one to warm up a bowl of soup when you come home exhausted from chemo. You’re not anyone’s priority. But with Breast Friends, we are each other’s priority.”

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Founded 16 years ago by and for women living with metastatic breast cancer, Breast Friends is the longest running support group in Canada for women with metastatic breast cancer. The group meets monthly at the Wellness Centre. However, with COVID-19 compounding the isolation of those at high risk for serious complications should they catch the virus, the group has been meeting weekly on Zoom since the end of March.

“COVID-19 added a lot of stress to an already difficult situation,” says Elaine. That’s why she is doubly grateful for the support she receives from Hope & Cope. “With metastatic cancer, each day can be challenging. The encouragement I get from this group, the knowledge and strategies we share with each other helps nurture my inner resilience. I am very proud to be part of this community.”

For more information about Breast Friends, please contact Carly Berlin: carly.berlin.ccomtl@ssss.gouv.qc.ca, 514 340-3616, ext. 208.

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