Cancer support group started in 1998
By Lori Schneider
A final meeting of the breast cancer support group called AfterReach took place Tuesday, Oct. 12 at Marly’s Restaurant in New London.
The club formed 17 years ago, following a conversation between breast cancer survivors Mona Klug, Ginny Pharr and Diane Rudy.
At that time, Klug was a few years into her recovery, and she no longer cared to drive to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Appleton for support group meetings.
“When you are having emotional upheavals like you do when you are fighting and then surviving cancer, convenience is a very comforting thing,” Klug said.
As the new support group grew in numbers, she inquired about a space to meet within the hospital. A room was available, and AfterReach found a home.
Klug, Pharr and many group members expressed that they appreciate and hold dear the relationships forged through the years by sharing sensitive and personal matters with others.
Pharr said that she always came away from support meetings having learned something.
Klug credits Pharr’s words by stating that the entire group kept a lookout for and shared the latest cancer research and treatment information. She and Pharr agree that the treatments have changed dramatically.
“Many called it the slash and burn treatment back when I had my surgery,” Pharr said. She said that the treatment was to remove the breast and apply radiation. “There was hardly anything else they knew to do.”
“In the world today, prescription drugs are used for some cancer treatments,” Klug added. “It demonstrates just how far some of the research has come.”
During the final meeting, another breast cancer survivor, Jane Witczak, suggested everyone keep the spirit of the AfterReach group alive by being the eyes and ears of breast cancer survivors.
“I think keeping each other informed is very important, especially when it comes to new information about cancer research,” Witczak said.
AfterReach member Kathy Grove said that the AfterReach Relay for Life team would continue to walk the track each year.
“I have a rummage every year and donate to Relay for Life,” Grove said. “That won’t change. The team is committed to helping with research.”
Pharr shared that through the years, many support group members who lost their lives to cancer were in their 30s and early 40s.
“It seems like the women are getting cancer at a much earlier age. There has to be a reason,” she said.
A monetary collection at the final meeting will help to support the New London Health Care Foundation.
“The AfterReach group has been ongoing with contributions to the foundation since its inception,” Klug said. “They did a wonderful job with the cancer treatment room here in New London’s hospital. The Healthcare Foundation is working on the hospital’s emergency care entrance. This again is a very necessary part of our hospital and all support is appreciated.”
As a final note, Klug said that she would continue to be an advocate for self-examinations. She wished everyone good health, and said she will miss the camaraderie.