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Not sure I'll ever stop going

It’s not so strange when you think about it. Every one of us in our support group of cancer survivors has a story to tell.

We’ve all endured head and neck cancers at some head and neck location. A couple of our members had other areas affected. We’ve all endured doses of radiation — six weeks, some of it double doses — chemotherapy, and degrees of only one or both. Most of us spent time on a feeding tube — a year and a half in my case.

Outside of our group, specific discussion about it seems almost verboten. Inside our group, discussion and sharing is the rule, and anything goes. Raw, tear-inducing emotion sometimes prevails, and sometimes comedy and laughter prevail.

We’re from all walks of life and varying degrees of education and careers. No matter. We’re comrades. We listen. We share. We support. It’s not a surprise, therefore, that some of our members go back as long as 20 years. There is always some fear of recurrence, but the motivation is mostly to teach and learn.

Why am I telling you this? Because I never cease to be amazed at this group of people, and maybe even more so my response to them.

I’ve had an aversion to groups for most of my life. I’ve always been quick to advise, but loath to seek advice. I went to my first meeting as a courtesy to my wife and one of her friends who had recommended my attendance. I thought I’d pay my respects and go about my business. That was two years ago. I don’t know if I’ll ever stop going.

There is such a drive in all of us, to give as well as to receive. We give and receive information, encouragement, love and support. Some of it is moving and some of it is amusing. Also, I think, we share fear. Fear of recurrence, fear for our loved ones, anxiety over things we never finished or accomplished, and may never, and concern for each other.

We give each other strength. Sometimes we give each other hope.

I remain surprised at my regard for the process, and I don’t want anyone going through this to hesitate to seek this camaraderie. There is never enough information from the medical community — dedicated and competent techs, nurses and physicians — that will apply to what we all might expect to occur. We have different issues and degrees of issues from each other. We explore those differences.

So, if you’ve just been diagnosed, are presently in treatment, have completed treatment recently or some time ago, then you should find some people like us who have shared your experience. Ask for local resources from your medical provider, and go online to the sites of various cancer organizations. However you do it, do it.

Don Azar lives in Phoenix.

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