Warrnambool Young Women’s Cancer Support Group

LOOKING FORWARD: Rebecca Hay, Melissa Hetherington and Sharna Purcell are excited about a new support group for young women with cancer. Picture: Christine Ansorge
LOOKING FORWARD: Rebecca Hay, Melissa Hetherington and Sharna Purcell are excited about a new support group for young women with cancer. Picture: Christine Ansorge

A NEW cancer support group is being set up in Warrnambool.

The Young Women’s Cancer Support Group will be for women under the age of 50 with any type of cancer.

A meeting will be held on Monday July 23 at the Flying Horse Inn Brewery Function Room at 10am to form the group and lay down its charter.

Winslow’s Melissa Hetherington is looking forward to being a founding member of the group.

Ms Hetherington, 33, was diagnosed with breast cancer in February and has just finished her last round of chemotherapy.

It has been a treatment period that has had a big impact on her life.

“The side effects are horrendous, it puts you into early menopause and you lose your fertility at 33,” she said.

“You can’t go to work, you sit at home a lot, it gets very lonely.

“Your peers have no idea how your life is turned completely upside down.

“I’ve had great support from family and friends but you don’t always want to burden them with your fears and worries.

“I’m really looking forward to this support group starting up.

“I have been to a few things for cancer patients but most of the people are my grandparents age.

“I’m not downplaying what they are going through but they do have different struggles, a different set of obstacles. 

“It will be nice to speak to people around my age who have been or are going through a similar struggle to me.”

The group is being set up by South West Healthcare McGrath Breast Care Nurse Rebecca Hay and Cancer Link Nurse Sharna Purcell.

Ms Hay said the new group will play a key role.

“Although the Warrnambool region is blessed with two pre-existing breast cancer support groups, welcoming new members with open arms, there has been a growing interest and demand demonstrated by young women to be involved in a group specifically addressing the needs of young women who are currently, or continue to experience the impact of a cancer diagnosis,” Ms Hay said. 

“The cancer experience is quite challenging and unique for younger women as they juggle work commitments, families, financial stresses, relationships and fertility issues born from cancer and it’s treatments. 

“This newly formed group hopes to provide a safe, nurturing, friendly, welcoming and confidential environment whereby young women can meet to share their cancer experience or simply be in the presence of others who understand their cancer burden. 

“Those who attend the meeting will be given the opportunity to contribute to a group agreement which will outline the specifics of the group, including how often the group will meet, the locations of the meetings and the core values of the group.

“We appreciate women may be many years post their cancer but may still be getting to know their “new normal”, or continue to be directly affected by cancer, given that many women report of the lingering effects of cancer treatments long after completion, such as feelings of isolated at times and not wanting to burden family and friends with their concerns.”

RSVP’s for the group’s formation meeting are required by July 16 and can be done by contacting Rebecca Hay at rhay@swh.net.au, 0458833584, or Sharna Purcell at spurcell@swh.net.au, 03 55644186.