Kathy Flanary was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006.
“The lump felt like a small tootsie roll,” Flanary said. “The feeling (of being diagnosed) is like being hit in the head with a hammer and you don’t know what to say. We went to Steak ‘n Shake. I started shaking uncontrollably and I couldn’t eat. We had to leave. I was so cold. I think it was a type of shock.”
Flanary dealt with her cancer head on after receiving the diagnosis.
“I never said ‘why me,’ I said ‘why not me,’” Flanary, facilitator of the cancer support group through Witham, recalled. “I looked at it like a job. I had a calendar and had everything marked. I had no family history of breast cancer. My mom took it the worst. She thought that me painting that bedroom made me sick.”
Cancer progresses differently in every patient.
“It can happen to all ages and men,” Flanary said. “If it’s not found, breast cancer can metastasize in the lungs and spread through the lungs and back, just like any other cancer. Some people are diagnosed in their 20s or 30s. Early detection is really important.”
Flanary said the terminology is also different.
“For breast cancer, they don’t say remission, they say cancer free,” Flanary said. “If you have made it five years (after treatment), you’re cancer free.”
Flanary said she came across people who had different reactions to her cancer diagnosis.
“It’s just like going to a funeral,” Flanary said. “People don’t know what to say. One time a young gal at Walmart looked at me and said ‘you have cancer don’t you?’ I said ‘yes’ and she said ‘my aunt had cancer, she died.’ People just say the strangest things.”
Flanary said that breast cancer is viewed differently than other cancers.
“When people hear breast cancer, they think it’s not dangerous anymore,” Flanary said. “I heard people say, ‘Oh you just have breast cancer.’ It astounded me when people said that. There is still no cure. You can still die from breast cancer.”
Cancer patients share stories of their interactions with people and their true feelings during the support group.
“I think a lot of cancer patients don’t tell all their feelings to their families,” Flanary said. “I think they hold it in so they don’t worry their families. So when you come to support group, you can tell people all about it and they will understand because they have been there and done that before.”
Support group is usually attended by various types of cancer patients who have finished their treatment. The support group features a music therapist to help them heal.
“Most cancer patients don’t feel like going during treatment so they go after their treatment is finished,” Flanary said. “After it is finished you deal with a terribly large amount of fear. Living is almost scarier than going through it. If I have a pain, I think ‘what if it’s cancer?’”
Another resource for cancer patients is the Boone County Cancer Society which helps in a variety of ways.
“The cancer society helped me,” Flanary said. “I have become obsessive to make the cancer society known and raise money for them. We help people financially, with material, and contacts. I doubt I would have been that interested in it if I hadn’t been touched by it.”
The cancer support group meets at 6 p.m. on the fourth Monday in the South Pavilion at Witham Hospital, 2605 N Lebanon St., Lebanon.