Bosom Buddies offers lifeline

Lincoln Hills group provides support for breast cancer survivors
By: Brandon Darnell The News Messenger
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Flo Hansen was virtually alone when she received the devastating news that she had breast cancer. But she quickly found a support network. “Every time I turned around, there was someone from Bosom Buddies at the door,” she said. With no family in the area, Bosom Buddies soon became Hansen’s family, and she credits the group with her survival. “They just enveloped me,” she said. Members brought her flowers, chocolate and other items, and often drove her to her doctor appointments and came to her house to administer the medications she needed. “I feel that without Bosom Buddies, I wouldn’t have lived,” she said. “They never baby you or patronize you.” From its humble beginnings as an 18-member support group in 2002, the Bosom Buddies Breast Cancer Survivors Group of Sun City Lincoln Hills has grown to more than 60 members. Providing needed support – both physical and moral – is the key goal of Bosom Buddies. Support comes in the forms Hansen experienced, as well as others. “We take flowers and meals to them,” group president Patty McCuen said. “We give them rides to the hospital and a lot of moral support. We answer a lot of questions, since they can’t always call their doctors right away.” Having gone through it before, the members have a good knowledge base for what to expect and help newly diagnosed patients get past the shock and fear of initially coping with it and moving toward battling the cancer. “I never thought I’d be sitting here,” said Diane Van Wingen, who joined Bosom Buddies last month. “It’s such a warm, caring group.” After her recent surgery, Van Wingen received a pink rose bush and fresh-baked muffins. “I thought, how can I give back?” she said. Her answer was to become more involved with the group in an effort to help other women in the future. Bosom Buddies formed in 2002 when founder Linda Williams was diagnosed with breast cancer and called Kathy Himelhoch, who was in charge of getting the initial Lincoln Hills support going. “How do we go on? How do we cope? How do we not worry? Together!” she wrote in an e-mail. The togetherness is not solely for women, as the women’s husbands attest. Jim Warren’s wife, Jan, was diagnosed four years ago. “It’s terrifying when you get the news,” he said. “This group gives a lot of moral support.” The husbands go through the same process of battling the disease, he said. Living with the women, they share in the initial shock, fear and disbelief, then have to cope with the news and work to handle it. “There’s a lot of positive stuff going on,” he said. Observing from the sidelines, in a way, he has the ability to see how the women bond together, and said they have made a lot of good friends. The group meets every month. The meetings serve as a time to get together, share a meal, and participate in activities “and getting back to the things that make our hearts sing,” Williams wrote. The Oct. 9 meeting featured lunch in the Meridians Restaurant followed by a play put on by the Reader’s Theater, Fred Ekman’s “Bus No. 10 doesn’t stop here anymore.” In recognition of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Bosom Buddies is teaming up with the Sacramento Breast Cancer Resource Center and the Brighton jewelry store in the Roseville Galleria to raise funds to keep the program going. Through Oct. 31, Brighton is running a promotion selling special bracelets for $60, $10 of which goes directly to local charities. “We’ve been doing this for seven years,” said Assistant Manager Noelle Nunes. “Since 2003, Brighton has raised more than $3 million for breast cancer charities.” Another contributor to Bosom Buddies is the Eighteen Hole Women Golfers, which originally hosted a benefit tournament and was the first sponsor of the group. Bosom Buddies is open to women living in Lincoln Hills. Sally Lewis, one of the contacts for Bosom Buddies, said she will personally help anyone, but can only refer Lincoln Hills residents to Bosom Buddies. She can be reached at 434-7381. For women living outside Lincoln Hills, the Sacramento Breast Cancer Resource Center is available, and it is located on the corner of Arden and Fulton in Sacramento. Typically catering to younger women suffering from breast cancer, the center is open to everyone, and can be reached by phone at 485-2067 or online at Founder Gina Andrews started the center after being diagnosed with breast cancer at 31. The message portrayed by both groups is summarized at the end of each Bosom Buddies meeting, when the women get together and say, “Together we are strong. Together we make a difference. Together we will survive.”