SIOUX FALLS, SD -
The month of October is synonymous with breast cancer awareness. But for those who live with the disease, it's more than a month long battle.
Emotional support through this difficult time can be one of the biggest allies a cancer patient can have.
"You know, you always think you take good care of yourself. So I was really blown away by the news," Janie Thomas, breast cancer survivor said.
Janie Thomas was diagnosed with breast cancer one year ago this coming November.
The day she received the news, her family decided to not let the disease control their lives.
"I thought, what are we going to do sit around and think about it all night? So we proceeded with our plans. Although it's in the back of your head, but we just went to see STOMP and enjoyed the evening and laughed a little bit. And afterwards thought about it again," Thomas said.
Thomas says it was this "don't give up" mentality, her faith, and her family's never-ending support that helped her in her fight.
"Took a lot of walks. A lot of encouragement from friends. Our marriage became closer. Our family became closer. But the reaching out from everybody was unbelievable. That was overwhelming in itself," Thomas said.
Loved ones can be a great source of comfort when facing a life threatening illness. There are also trained professionals who can help in ways a family member may not.
"Whether it's coping skills. Whether it's dealing with anxiety or depression. Relationship issues. People are 6 times more likely to be divorced if they have cancer. So that's the advantage is that we can cover all those important parts of someone's life and we'll get them to their faster," Eleeson said.
Dr. Susan Eleeson is an Oncology Psychologist for Sanford Health. Though the she's been working with cancer patients for several years, it was her own breast cancer diagnosis that brought her a new understanding for what her patients are going through.
"I think many times people will say, oh you should have counseling or someone to talk to, like it's kind of extra. And it's not extra. It's essential," Eleeson said.
On top of one-on-one counseling, Sanford also offers support groups to help with the healing process.
"Everybody knows why they're there. They can completely say what they want to say. It's not tied to, oh how much can I talk and what can I share,” Eleeson said.
"When you're in a support group you realize that you're not alone. And that some of the things that you do, somebody else is doing. Like I had a hard time since my stomach wasn't always feeling good, I'd ask my husband ok what should we have for supper? I think I'd ask him that every day. I'm sure that got annoying. But then I talked to this other gal and she did the same thing. So I just laughed and I thought, oh good! You know, I'm not alone," Thomas said
Thomas says she also attended classes like "Look Good, Feel Better" and visited the Bloom Boutique at Sanford; to try and learn new ways to feel confident while going through rounds of chemo and surgery. Thomas says her faith and the ability to help others also played a big role in helping her feel stronger every day.
"Just to become closer to God through this, and how He has blessed us through this. And provided for us. And put people in my path just for encouragement. Or I encouraged somebody. And that even felt better," Thomas said.
"You'll get through it. When somebody told me that, I thought this is dragging. I don't know if I can make it. Because there's days like that. But you do make it. And it's amazing."
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