I sat with my uncle in the hospital waiting room the day my young and vibrant aunt had a mastectomy. I held my friend, and held back my tears, before she was wheeled into surgery. I’ve known the anxiety one feels when awaiting the results of a mammogram.
So many people have experienced or known someone close to them who has been diagnosed, struggled through treatment, survived, or died from breast cancer. For those of us in a support role, we have made food, cleaned houses, waited at doctor’s appointments or chemotherapy treatments, and offered encouraging words when our loved ones’ hair started to fall out and the color drained from their skin.
Imagine what it would be like to have breast cancer and not be living in your own home or have family and friends to care for and support you.
Dana, one of the women living at Calvary, could tell you her experience – the way she told me. Following a mammogram, the first one she’d had in her 51 years, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Dana went through surgery, radiation treatment, and complications from the medication all while living in Calvary’s transitional housing program.
Estranged from her family, suffering from depression, and only barely hanging on to a part-time job, Dana had only been at Calvary for a few months when her health problems began. It was amazing to witness Dana’s courage and the way that the community of women offered her support. Her case manager accompanied her to the doctor’s office. Her roommate made sure she had someone to listen when she was feeling afraid.
Today, Dana is working again. She is in treatment for her mental illness and bouncing back from the months of fighting cancer. By late spring, she will move into her own apartment.
While Calvary can’t be a replacement for family, it is a place where women find community and support during some of the most challenging times of their lives. And, in Dana’s words, “It wasn’t my first choice of where to be, but Calvary is where I live right now; a community of which I am a part. I’m grateful for that.”