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Support Groups at Upper Valley Medical Center

Chris WatercutterWhen Chris Watercutter takes her seat at the monthly breast cancer support group meeting, she brings a perspective many group facilitators do not possess.

She is a five-year cancer survivor, and one of the founders four years ago in March of the support group sponsored through the UVMC Cancer Care Center.

The group was suggested to Watercutter, a Sidney resident and UVMC lab histology supervisor, by Dr. Carlos Machicao, shortly after she returned to work during her cancer treatment. The two continue to facilitate the group, which Watercutter said “has just evolved.

Watercutter is happy to offer advice for anyone starting a support group.

Having cancer survivors as speakers is helpful to group members, Watercutter said. “They will look at me and say, ‘You went through it all,’” she said.

She understands the attraction. When she had cancer, Watercutter also would turn to other cancer survivors.

The support group facilitators don’t tell people what to do or whom to see for medical care. If there is a question about treatment that he cannot answer, Dr. Machicao will research and provide information at the next meeting.
 
Other programs successful with the breast cancer group have included Cancer 101 and 101-Plus classes; a tour of the hospital lab; and participation in the Relay for Life event.

Participants are encouraged to keep pathology reports in a folder, along with other documentation, to help recall dates, treatments and procedures. “I have a folder at home with all of my stuff in it. It works. It just makes it easier for you,” Watercutter said.

Group members range in age from their 30s into the 80s. The meetings are free and open to anyone, no matter where they received treatment.

If a participant is not coming to a meeting, they often will call Watercutter. “It is just rewarding for me to see not only am I helping myself, but I am helping other people. And, it works,” she said.
  
“All of the women I’ve seen, it has been very helpful. They consider themselves not as best friends, but breast friends,” she said.

Starting in October, the breast cancer support group meets the second Tuesday of each month, except June and December, with a November carry-in for the holidays. The group previously met on the third Tuesday of each month.

It is just family now, real family,” Watercutter said. “It is pretty wonderful. I can see when the ladies leave they are feeling much better.”

The UVMC Cancer Care Center and UVMC as an organization support the groups and use of its facilities for meetings of the community in support of each other, said Jean Heath, RN, BSN, MA, OCN, director, UVMC Cancer Care Center.

“We want everybody to be able to reach out in some way to the group. Whether it’s meetings or however we can reach them,” Heath said. “There is no pressure. The individual level of participation is what makes you feel comfortable.”