It’s hard to walk into a room and find someone not touched by cancer in one way or another. Thousands are currently in the middle of their battle, millions have been claimed and tomorrow many more will be diagnosed with this life-changing disease. Reaction to a cancer diagnosis varies from person to person as does treatment and counseling sessions. In Bonners Ferry, women affected by cancer have a place to go to hear from others who have been in their shoes.
“People have such a wonderful sense of humor here,” explained Virginia Sanborn. “We shed a few tears, but we also share a lot of laughs.”
Sanborn is the treasurer for the Bonners Ferry Women’s Cancer Education and Support Group. Since the early 2000s, the group has been a place for women to go each month, share their stories, enjoy a meal and receive support from others. Despite the difficult topic, the group keeps the monthly meetings upbeat and positive while focusing more on the triumphs and highlights in life. The Cancer Education and Support Group is open to women of any age whether they are currently undergoing treatments, are in remission or are determined to be cancer free. Female caretakers are also encouraged to attend, as the task of caring for a loved one with a cancer diagnosis is also of huge importance.
“We have one woman who lost her son that comes every week, two others haven’t had cancer but show support, and just about everyone else is a cancer survivor or is in treatment,” said Sanborn.
There are currently about 30 members in the group with around half showing up on the fourth Monday of each month at the Panhandle Health District. Lunch is served potluck style from noon to 2pm. Participants go around the room and introduce themselves and discuss how cancer is affecting their lives. Occasionally there is a speaker, but often the conversation revolves around hobbies, activities, vacation plans and other fun topics. While some women have been attending these monthly meetings for more than a decade, new people are showing up often and find a place where they can open up to a group who has been there before.
“It’s really like a big family. Sometimes it’s not easy to speak to your own family about cancer, but people seem to open up and relate more in a group,” she explained.
While the Bonners Ferry Women’s Cancer Education and Support Group is always there to support one another, they also have a large impact on cancer patients and their families outside of the group. For the past 11 years, the group has been handing out $50 gas gift cards to help families and individuals pay some of the expense of getting to and from treatments and doctors appointments. About $1,000 worth of cards go out every eight weeks, showing just how many people in the local area are battling this disease. The group relies almost entirely on donations, making the amount of gas money given away all the more special, especially considering it is all going to local Bonners Ferry residents. Sanborn said the group is beyond grateful to help out honest people and that not once has the group ever been taken advantage of.
“We’ve created some wonderful friendships. After people are done with their checkups they often call and want to donate money towards the cards. It’s great to help those kinds of people.”
The Bonners Ferry Women’s Cancer Education and Support Group has two upcoming events in which you can show your support, both revolving around delicious meals. The fourth annual Spaghetti feed will take place Thursday, October 4, at the Chick-N-Chop. A delicious pasta dinner with all the fixings is available for just $5 from 5 to 7pm.
The group’s biggest annual fundraiser and awareness day is the annual Pink Luncheon on Saturday, October 20, also at the Chick-N-Chop. Cost for the salad bar is $8 and includes tax and gratuity. There will be an MC on hand to update the community on what’s happening in the group, as well as additional entertainment. A quilter whose sister passed away from cancer will again donate a quilt which will be raffled off alongside a couple additional donated quilts and raffle baskets.
If you can’t make either lunch or dinner, donations are accepted year round. Any female caretakers, those battling cancer or those in remission are invited to the fourth Monday meetings that begin at noon. New members are encouraged and will be welcomed with open arms and a special gift from current members.
As a breast cancer survivor herself, Sanborn knows the importance of those battling cancer from those who have also gone through the battle. The group is fun and upbeat but ready to support those who are really struggling with their diagnosis or care of a loved one. If you or a woman you know is interested in learning more about the group, you can contact Virginia Sanborn directly at 208.267.2711.
Cancer can drag someone down, but the Bonners Ferry Women’s Cancer Education Support Group is there to pick you up and share a few tears but also provide plenty of laughs.