breast cancer buddies celbrate 20 yrs.   .  24 March  2016.
breast cancer buddies celbrate 20 yrs. . 24 March 2016. Trevor Veale

You’ll never walk alone

COFFS Harbour Breast Cancer Buddies has a clear message, “you are not alone”.

This local support group was formed 20 years ago when Ruth Cooper moved to Coffs Harbour after having had treatment for breast cancer and wanted to join a support group.

“There was only one cancer support group in Coffs, and that was for all cancers,” Ruth said.

The Anglican rector agreed to have a breast cancer support group sponsored by the church as a community service and the group began at St John’s in McLean St.

Since that first year the group has had several name changes, has seen splinter groups form and has offered a confidential, safe place to talk and share for 250 women and one man. And the message remains the same, “you are not alone”.

Coffs Harbour Breast Cancer Buddies held a luncheon recently celebrating the dedication of Ruth Cooper and the group’s 20-years of support to locals with breast cancer. Past and present members attended along with invited guests including Mayor Denise Knight.

“Last week I was invited to share an afternoon with Breast Buddies, a group established solely to help women through the breast cancer journey with positivity, friendship and support,” Cr Knight said.

“Coffs Harbour Breast Cancer Buddies were farewelling their current co-ordinator Ruth Cooper and celebrating their 20th anniversary. I was welcomed with open arms. They are an amazing group of ladies doing fantastic work and it was heart-warming to see the bond that exists between these women and the women they support.”

Di Holt, a current member of Coffs Harbour Breast Cancer Buddies, said it was thanks to the group being affiliated nationally with Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) that enabled access to so many resources.

“Being part of BCNA means even though we are a little group a long way from the city we still have access to training, information and a wider support network and are part of larger events,” Di said.

“The group offers regular meetings and we have occasional guest speakers that always link back to practical values, self care and healthy lifestyles. We have had guests speakers show us tai chi, psychologists share strategies for coping and finding your way, a dental hygienist explaining how to care for your teeth during treatment and recently laughter yoga which was so much fun.

“We also have a great relationship with the hospital, and if you need it, support can start from there with one of the group popping in to say g’day offering reassurance, comfort and empathy.”

After 20 years with the group, Ruth Cooper has handed over the reins to Margaret Kelly. It’s been an amazing journey for one woman instrumental in making sure no-one with breast cancer is alone.

“A few folk find it’s not for them while most really appreciate the support, learning and social opportunities,” Ruth said.

“Often someone comes to the group feeling traumatised because of a diagnosis or treatment. It is wonderful to see the support offered and to see that person leave with a smile and new confidence from new supportive friends.”

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