Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, PC focuses on an integrative approach with our Patient Empowerment Program (PEP), which addresses the psycho/social needs of our patients. The emotional support is an integral part of the healing process for women undergoing mastectomy and breast reconstruction. Some patients have the additional challenge of chemotherapy and/or radiation mixed into the recovery process. While friends can provide extraordinary support, there is a special bond between women experiencing the same journey that leads to a greater understanding and greater bond with one another. The Sisterhood of Support (SOS) groups offer the opportunity for this special connection, no matter the age of the patient.
Yesterday, in one of the Sisterhood of Support groups, we held our annual Holiday Lunch. The women who participated ranged from those who were one month post-mastectomy to six years out. Each generously contributed to the bounty of delectable delights. As I glanced around the table, I was aware of the individual journeys of each of the women; there was newly grown in hair following chemotherapy treatments, a greater sense of peace and confidence, and an appreciation for the “moment.”
Many of the women shared their “stories” which resonated with the others. Chris, the “veteran” of the group, talked of her initial denial of feelings and use of the “four letter word”… I’m “fine.” She was resistant to attending the SOS groups, but through our contact at each office visit she knew that it was available to her at any time. She recalled one of those contacts when she finally acknowledged, “I’m not so fine” and began her long connection with the SOS group. It was at the same time that her husband approached me and realized that he also needed to address his feelings through the Men’s Support Group. Tears, self-exploration, and many years later, the couple relates having reassessed their priorities and feeling more connected than at any point in their marriage. They have learned to say “no” to requests rather than to respond out of obligation; they have learned to make their dreams a reality; they are living in the present!
While I have been in this field for over forty-five years, the privilege of walking this journey with our patients and their significant others fills my heart. When I witness individuals and couples use the difficult situation of diagnosis and treatment as an “opportunity” to reassess how they live their lives, alter their priorities, and appreciate the moment, it reaffirms that one can insert control over a situation which feels out of control.
May the New Year offer a smooth road ahead for all of you!
-Mollie Sugarman, Clinical Director, Patient Empowerment Program