The Bosom Buddies members can be as serious as discussing breast reconstruction techniques or as light-hearted as laughing at losing a prosthesis while cheering at a baseball game.
The women know what it’s like to have breast cancer and they come to the meetings to help themselves and each other.
“I think I can speak for all women who have breast cancer, that we feel very alone. Unless you’ve been through it, you can’t understand it. There are so many different ways of dealing with breast cancer, it’s as unique as the women who have it but there are many things in common,” said Wendy Schafer, who has been coming to Bosom Buddies for two years.
“Women can really be on the edge when they are first diagnosed and this is a place to come for compassion and understanding.”
Bosom Buddies started in 1989 when breast cancer volunteer Ruth Schaefer got together a group of young women ages 26 to 41 who had all been diagnosed with breast cancer about the same time.
“We started meeting and then we heard of other women who had breast cancer, we invited them and the group grew,” said Nenette Sharma, one of the original members who is still active in the group, which now welcomes women with any type of cancer who want to come to a women’s support group.
Clara Smith has been a member for 11 years.
“What I want women to know is, if you’re not feeling good and you don’t know why, go and see your doctor. An early diagnosis is what has enabled us to live as long as we have. Do your research and find out as much as you can. Bosom Buddies is a good place to start because women can answer your questions and if they don’t know, they will find out,” she said.
All of the women emphasized the importance of being your own advocate during breast cancer treatment and recovery.
“Trust your own body. You know what is right or wrong with it. Have a team that takes care of your physical, emotional and spiritual needs. Try to be positive and take action but it’s okay not to be positive sometimes. Another thing I like about the group is that they are great listeners,” said Schafer.
The members support each other through listening, hugs, a bouquet of flowers or going for a walk together. They feel free to talk and laugh about things like a boob-shaped birthday cake, what reconstructed breasts look and feel like and bras and prostheses. They have educational speakers on a variety of topics and social events like Zumba dancing.
“I know support groups are not for everyone and some women just want to get it over with and forget it but I think that when you talk about it, the fear goes out. You deal with the experience somehow,” said Sharma.
“We want to be there for women whether they want to talk to someone, come to the group for a few meetings or stay for years and volunteer to help others.”
Bosom Buddies volunteers are available on request to visit women before surgery, at the hospital or one-on-one at home. Members will also speak to other community organizations and they have information tables at many community events.
Bosom Buddies meets for lunch the first Tuesday of the month and has an evening meeting the third Tuesday of the month. For general information see www.cancer.ca or www.cbcf.org.