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Finding support in each other at HopeWell
Pictured: Edie Windsor, a breast cancer survivor, says she felt peaceful at HopeWell.
Women diagnosed with breast cancer don't just need good medical care and the support of loved ones. They need interaction with others going through the same experience, according to HopeWell Cancer Support.
The Lutherville-based center gives them that opportunity. It offers support groups, as well as exercise and relaxation classes, lectures on nutrition and the latest research and other services for those with any kind of cancer. Families and caregivers also can enroll in programs designed for them or with their loved ones who have cancer.
There are even workshops on how to wear a head scarf or wig.
And everything is offered free.
"The idea was that the people who were the experts in cancer were the people with cancer," said Suzanne Brace, a 30-year breast cancer survivor who founded the organization about two decades ago and is its executive director. "Coming together with others with the disease made you feel that you weren't so alone."
That means all of HopeWell's offerings are based around group settings. Some participants are new and scared while some find comfort in using their experience to help the newly diagnosed. Others lie somewhere in between.
Edie Windsor has been in each category. She was diagnosed with quickly spreading breast cancer eight years ago and is still "working on being healthy."
She was home recuperating from surgery when her daughter-in-law suggested she tour HopeWell. She came to rely on the support groups early on, but she's also has tried yoga, Zumba and meditation class. Her husband, daughter-in-law, sister and mother also have tapped HopeWell┐s services.
"I realized I felt comfortable and peaceful and welcomed," said the 63-year-old Baltimore teacher. "For me, it helped to hear from people who had been there, done that."
Windsor now speaks and offers help to others at HopeWell because "unfortunately the supply of people who need HopeWell is not going to stop. There will always be people newly diagnosed."
In all, 900 people made a total of 9,000 visits to HopeWell┐s 8-acre scenic campus off Falls Road last year. The organization's $900,000 budget is paid for through grants, fundraisers and small gifts. Brace said the economy has made raising money harder, but she said the staff is committed to providing services to everyone at no cost.
The money pays for six full-time workers and 25 staffers. They are mostly social workers, counselors and psychologists; many are themselves cancer survivors.
"They don't wear coats," Brace said. "They are just there to share their wisdom."
More information on HopeWell can be found at 410-832-2719, email@example.com or hopewellcancersupport.org.
— Meredith Cohn
September 13, 2012