If her friend had not been diagnosed with breast cancer, Rachel Harewood might never have felt the comfort she gets from attending a local breast cancer support group.
When Harewood discovered she had cancer — after finding a lump in her breast during a self-exam on the Fourth of July in 2011 — she initially rebuffed her doctor's suggestion to attend the Statesboro-Bulloch County Breast Cancer Foundation support group.
“I turned him down time and time again because I didn't want to be around a bunch of ladies that cry,” Harewood said.
But when she found out her friend had the disease, she and her friend agreed to go to the support group together.
“I found out I had a lot of questions,” Harewood said.
The foundation and the support group are both funded by the organization's fundraiser, the Pink Power Run — an annual 5K race that takes place on Georgia Southern's campus. The next race takes place Saturday.
While she read a lot of books and did plenty of research on the Internet, Harewood said, “There’s a difference between reading on the Internet and talking with someone who has experienced what you are experiencing.”
Harewood's doctor is Dr. Marc Bisseck, the owner of Statesboro Plastic Surgery and a co-founder of the Statesboro-Bulloch County Breast Cancer Foundation along with attorney April Stafford. Bisseck said he thought about starting the group when he realized his patients needed a local outlet to share their feelings with other patients as well as talk about their treatment and the effect of the disease on their lives.
“The support group is a handful of women that come together to face their disease together,” Bisseck said. “Time and time again, my patients have told me how much easier it is to face treatment when they don't have to face it all alone.”
Susan Jackson has attended the group since it first started meeting about 2½ years ago. She said women need somewhere outside the house to talk about their feelings and all the things they go through emotionally, physically and financially.
“Even the most supportive family gets tired of hearing about it all the time. You need a place where you can talk freely and openly about it, where you're understood and people know what you're going through,” Jackson said. “It's like your not going through this all by yourself.”
She said that while each person's diagnosis is unique and that individuals deal with the news in different ways, the women who come to the meeting feel they have support and are not dealing with the disease by themselves.
“It's that way in a lot of things in people's lives — it’s so much easier to fight if you don't feel alone.”
Not all who come to the meetings come for themselves. Tiffany Williams drove from Millen to attend the meeting after she found out her aunt was diagnosed. Williams said her aunt was having a hard time dealing with the reality of having breast cancer. She wanted to talk with other survivors and those patients currently dealing with treatment of the disease to see how she could help her aunt.
“I wanted to let her know there are people going through the same things she was going through — having the same struggles she was having,” Williams said. “I wanted her to discover she doesn't have to go through this all alone.”
Last year, the race had more than 30 corporate sponsors and nearly 450 runners, and Bisseck said organizers hope to improve on those numbers this year.
Jennifer Nunn, whose mother is a cancer survivor, is a board member of the foundation and the liaison between the board and the support group. She said the Pink Power Run is important because it is the sole fundraising effort for the group whose primary goal is to financially help breast cancer patients.
“It's to help them pay for things like travel expenses or co-payments. Sometimes, it becomes a choice where these women think, 'Do I put food on my table or do I pay the co-pay for my chemotherapy?'” Nunn said. “We don't want that to be a choice.”
The Pink Power Run is Saturday starting at Georgia Southern University's Recreation Activity Center Pavilion off Old Register Road. Registration starts at 7 a.m., the race at 8 a.m. with an awards ceremony following at 9:30. Registration is $23 and includes a shirt while supplies last. Georgia Southern students get a $5 discount if they show student ID.
Williams wants to encourage anyone who has been touched by breast cancer to support the foundation and participate in the race.
“You never know,” Williams said. “It might be your loved one who is affected next, so come out and support the race.”
Being told the tests indicate breast cancer is a life-altering moment. The foundation support group helps deal with the shattering news and the emotional roller coaster of treatment and recovery.
“It's nice to share with the other ladies, 'If I can make it through, you can make it through, too,'” Harewood said.
The support group meets the second Monday of each month, from 6-7 p.m. Though it has been meeting at the Averitt Center for the Arts since its inception, the group will now meet at the new Statesboro Plastic Surgery office on Brampton Avenue because of the rapid growth in the number of attendees. To find out more about the group or to find out more information about the Pink Power Run, visit www.statesboropinkpower.com or visit the foundation’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/sbcbc.