Think Pink!

Published 9:27 pm Saturday, August 13, 2011

Pink Passion: Pink Passion facilitator Michelle Barrett poses with Connie Chapman, another group member, at an event for the group. Pink Passion was formed at Sentara Obici Hospital in March to be a support system for women who have been recently diagnosed with breast cancer.

Breast cancer support group helps newly diagnosed

When Michelle Barrett was going through cancer treatments last year, she wanted to believe something good could come from her experience.

Now, she’s discovered a positive use for one of the hardest times in her life. She regularly shares her story and supports others in the Pink Passion breast cancer support group.

“If I could be used to help others in the future, there was a reason why,” she said.

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Pink Passion was just formed in March at Sentara Obici Hospital in addition to another breast cancer support group.

When women are first diagnosed with breast cancer, Barrett said, it’s hard to envision any chance of returning to normalcy, but seeing her and other cancer survivors can show them there can be a future.

Pat Thornton, breast cancer patient navigator at Obici, said Pink Passion was created after several patients asked for a group specifically for recently-diagnosed breast cancer patients.

She said they wanted to form a support group that included women who were going through the same thing.And because they are on the same page, the ladies in Pink Passion can be there for each other in a big way.

“They just made friends right away, and they have continued to support each other,” Thornton said. “It’s very heart-warming.”

The members in Pink Passion share stories, talk about different treatment options, visit each other in the hospital and stay in touch outside of their meetings with email and phone calls.

Barrett said the women in the group who are now cancer-free try to offer advice to others who are dealing with their new diagnosis and weighing their treatment options.

“Our main goal is to be there to help people through what we all went through,” she said.

She added support is an essential for cancer patients who don’t have a positive outlook on their situation.

“It’s an emotional roller coaster for people,” she said. “People who have been touched by it physically themselves know and have the heart to reach out.”

In addition to hospital visits, the ladies in Pink Passion also offer different support for patients going through chemotherapy with care packages.

The packages include ginger snaps to relieve sick stomachs, a pink bracelet, a hat, a yoga DVD and thank-you notes.

Thornton said she thinks helping other patients is a way for these women to deal with their own experience with cancer.

“Every time they give back to another woman, it’s healing,” she said. “It doesn’t lessen what you’re experiencing, but it’s enriching.”

Thornton added Pink Passion is also working to reach out the community to educate others about breast cancer.

“We’re trying to be more active in the community,” she said.

She said the group is planning to have a shoe embellishment fundraising contest this fall, for which contestants will decorate shoes with different themes.

She said the money collected will go to a charity fashion show, which will take place in October and feature cancer survivors as the models.

The Pink Passion group meets on the first Wednesday of every month at noon at Obici, unless otherwise scheduled.

Barrett said groups like Pink Passion are so beneficial to cancer patients because the support from people who have experienced the same things can be key in recovery.

“You need to have support groups out there for people because until you’ve gone through it, you can’t imagine what they are going through,” Barrett said. “They know how they feel; they know the shock; they know every emotion that’s gone through your body — they’ve felt it.”