MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — During breast cancer awareness month in October, we often hear about new research or treatments for the disease.
One aspect of treatment, that sometimes gets overlooked, is the support system needed to overcome cancer.
Cancer is not always an easy topic to talk about, yet as Lorie Wahlstrom and Sherri West recently discussed Wahlstrom’s breast cancer prognosis, there was a comfortable ease about the conversation.
“What do you think the one thing is that allows you to be able to be so strong?” asked West, a breast cancer survivor.
“Having you as support has helped a lot,” Wahlstrom said.
These two women didn’t know each other until this summer, when Wahlstrom’s cancer brought them together.
“We really connected on lots of different levels,” West said.
Facing triple negative breast cancer, one of the most aggressive forms, Wahlstrom’s needs weren’t just medical, but emotional.
“My family was more worried than I was, so I didn’t want to scare them,” she said. “It’s easier to talk to someone who’s been through it.”
Wahlstrom joined the Firefly Sisterhood, a support group pairing breast cancer survivors with patients.
She was paired with West, who lived through the same type of breast cancer, eight years ago.
“There’s so many things that it’s so helpful to hear from someone who’s actually experienced them,” Wahlstrom said.
“I’m here to show women with triple negative, you can do it,” West added. “You can survive.”
The Firefly Sisterhood started in the Twin Cities less than two years ago.
The organization makes a point of connecting women based on age, stage of the disease and life experience.
“It’s really, really powerful to talk to someone who’s been there,” said Kris Newcomer, executive director of the Firefly Sisterhood.
The major difference that sets this group apart from other cancer support groups is its one-on-one, face-to-face connection model.
Often times, support groups connect through technology or over the phone.
“There’s really something powerful about that cup of coffee or dinner where it makes the rest of the conversation so much fuller and richer,” Newcomer said.
In less than two years, the group has paired 131 cancer patients with survivors who can offer support through treatment.
Often times patients become survivors willing to share their story with those who’ve also walked the same path.
“I think we have a sense of wanting to help each other,” West said. “It’s a sisterhood. It really is a sisterhood.”
Survivors can volunteer to help newly diagnosed patients go through a three-hour training program. To learn more about the Firefly Sisterhood, click here.