cancer support community

Polly Westlund believes it’s important for children to hear the phrase “cancer is a disease,” which she has used with her grandchildren. She told her young children that even a routine trip to the dentist would cause them to be scared. But there is a reassuring side to cancer, she says.

“They can pick it up,” she says. “It’s a peaceful cancer.”

And this cancer support community has become a community that is not only comforting to children, it is also helping their parents in one way: finding support and friendship when parents become too ill to get out of bed.

She says the best thing about her support group was that the people were completely different. Some were happy, some were disappointed. Some were survivors and some weren’t.

“There are people in this community,” she says. “I didn’t have that in my life before.”

The Cancer Support Community of Cheyenne provides a place for people to escape their worries and meet other people with similar experiences. Sue Cheek / CBS News

This cancer support community was founded 30 years ago by Carol Jones in her home in Boulder, Colo. The nonprofit has grown to a population of more than 12,000, with 65 centers in 15 states.

“The fact is it’s hard to have a support group with cancer,” Jones says. “To be able to meet people who share a common problem — that doesn’t happen often in cancer society.”

But Polly Westlund and Kathy Billings say the support community makes it possible for them to care for their cancer-struck children.

“We know the members,” Westlund says. “We’ve grown to love them.”

Westlund says she is lucky to be alive with her family. But she is grateful for the support she has received.

“I’ve always been pretty optimistic about life. But you have your moments where you start questioning things,” she says. “And when you have a support group like this, the majority of people who have cancer are hopeful.”

Leave a comment