South Charlotte

YMCA cancer group meeting a need

The Siskey YMCA in Matthews is more than just a place to work out.

It offers programs designed to help members live a healthier lifestyle. The YMCA initiatives are part of a comprehensive approach to meeting the needs of its members.

So when Teishana Brooks, Siskey Branch finance manager, saw a need that hadn’t been met, she took action. Brooks has held a variety of positions at the Siskey YMCA.

However, near the end of 2012, she knew several people, both at the Y and in her personal life, who were dealing with cancer.

“Cancer touches everybody,” she said recently.

She approached Sarah Duncan, a registered nurse who staffs the Carolinas Medical Center Health Center at the YMCA.

“I asked her what we could do,” Brooks said.

Together they created a cancer support group. Brooks concentrated on the logistics, while Duncan consulted with her contacts in the Carolinas Healthcare System. By April of 2014, a few individuals were invited to attend the newly formed, preliminary group. It went well and Brooks and Duncan helped to expand the group.

Attendance ranges from five or six to as many as 12. The support group is a collaborative effort between Siskey and the Levine Cancer Institute, which provides a group facilitator, Janina Belgrave.

Having a facilitator with experience working with cancer patients is valuable, she said. However, the group is very much member driven. The focus is based on what’s important to group members, Brook said.

Emotional support is central to the group’s mission. They also discuss new innovations in treatment, Brooks said. One time, the members wanted to try art therapy, so that was arranged. It’s all about being responsive to the needs of those who attend.

Although group members share a common issue, there are differences in their specific circumstances. Some may be newly diagnosed, some in the beginning of their treatment, while others might be nearing the end of treatment. Everyone is welcome regardless of where they are in their situation.

Strong bonds are formed in the supportive atmosphere of the group, Brooks said. The caring, comfort and encouragement helps people feel less alone. It’s a place where there is freedom to share feelings, concerns, fears and experiences, she said.

The group is open to anybody with cancer of any type, as well as caregivers, partners and friends. They meet in the chapel. There are refreshments available, as well as note cards and pens.