Lake Norman & Mooresville

Group connects cancer patients

Cancer patients, survivors and their caregivers can find compassion and information at a weekly support group at Lake Norman Regional Medical Center in Mooresville.

The group meets on the second Tuesday of each month. It has both male and female members who deal with all types of cancers.

Kay Brown has been attending the support group for three years with her husband, William, a fellow cancer survivor. They heard about it through the Lowe's YMCA's Live Strong cancer program. She said the group has been a source of strength and encouragement for both of them, and she hopes they can provide those same gifts for others.

The Browns' first experience with cancer came in 2005, when William was diagnosed with prostate cancer. After treatment, he went into remission until 2009, when cancer returned in his lungs. He was in remission again until this year, when he was diagnosed with lung and liver cancer in January and with brain cancer last month.

Kay Brown was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2008 but has been cancer-free for four years.

Brown said they wouldn't have made it through the tough times without faith and hope.

"Faith makes things possible, not necessarily easy," she said. "That is one thing we would advise others: to lean on their faith and never give up hope and remember that God is there to see them through."

Group member Jane Gilson heard about the group from the American Cancer Society's website and has attended since November 2010. Gilson was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2009 and has since undergone radiation, chemotherapy and medication. She said the past 20 months have been difficult, and she has both good and bad days, but the support of her family and others helps get her through.

"The support group has helped me connect with others, some in recovery and some still going through treatment. It's provided me with a sense of belonging, where I can be myself and I know that the group understands what I'm going through," said Gilson.

Diane Pulsone, a member of the group since 2006, echoed Gilson's sentiments. She said the group helps to remind her she is not alone in her journey.

Pulsone's first experience came in 1985, when her then-boyfriend (now her husband) was diagnosed with cancer. In 2004, Diane herself was diagnosed with melanoma. Then in 2006 she learned she had stage-four ovarian cancer (the most advanced stage). After undergoing surgery and chemotherapy, she was in remission for four years until early this year, when cancer was found in her lymph node.

Pulsone said she wants others dealing with cancer to know they are not alone,

"Support comes in many forms. Others enjoy giving their time, talents and money to support you through cancer if you tell them what you are experiencing and your needs."

She added that faith has sustained her, as well, through her journey.

"God has given me courage through each experience. I never experienced fear when I got a diagnosis.... I still felt I was safe in God's hands."

Connie Byers, leader of the support group, said about 35 to 42 members attend each month. Members range in age from mid-20s to mid-80s and include both those going through treatment and five- to 10-year survivors. The group meets from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Lake Norman Regional Medical Center cafeteria, where lunch is provided.

Byers said the group's goal is "to provide compassionate and informational learning sessions for those who are living with cancer and their caregivers," as well as to "meet with other survivors to learn about life beyond cancer."