By Leila Costa, LMFT
I have the honor of facilitating a Post Treatment Support Group at weSPARK every week. This group calls themselves The Victory Group, not only because they won their ‘cancer war’ but because, through their extreme motivation and positivity, they are also winning what we refer to as ‘the second war’, the post treatment phase. It has been an honor to witness these amazing women from different backgrounds come together as a community to create meaningful connections and support each other in ways that only a person who has been in their shoes can do.
A constant struggle for cancer patients is the frustration of not knowing that they could also face symptoms associated with post treatment such as neuropathy, depression, difficulty concentrating, poor memory, inability to connect with family and friends, isolation, grief, loneliness, confusion about their future, change in perspective of life and values, fear of recurrence… the list can go on forever. Finding other people in a support group that feel the same way, or connecting with someone who can say “the same thing happened to me” allows a cancer survivor to shift from feeling alone and isolated to a more positive, compassionate and self-loving persona. The survivor can begin to understand that they are normal and therefore have nothing to be ashamed of.
Since empathy creates a sense of belonging, safety and vulnerability, living and experiencing the emotional, social and physical side effects of post treatment surrounded by people who understand their struggles and offer compassion, can promote the healing of the body and soul.
A question that continually comes up in our group discussions is why most people never know what to say or do when they hear the word cancer or remission. It seems that people find it hard to say the right thing or show compassion to someone who is dealing with a life changing experience. Showing empathy can be as easy as telling someone that you are there for them and reminding them that you may not always know what they need so they should feel comfortable asking you as different needs come up. It can also be as simple as holding their hand and letting them know they are not alone.
The group meets every Thursday at noon surrounded by candles while enjoying homemade cookies, biscuits and donuts. They all experience a range of emotions such as laughter, anger, vulnerability, tears, connections and humor. However, one thing that remains consistent is that every week, they all leave the group to fight their battles with their hearts filled with love, hope and a ‘see you all next week’.
Leila facilitates weSPARK’s Post Treatment Support Group and Ongoing/Metastatic Support Group. She has a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from The Wright Institute in Berkeley. Prior to becoming a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in California, Leila was a licensed therapist in her home country of Brazil. Since her first session with a client at Children’s Hospital in 1999, she knew she had found her calling. Leila has worked with diverse populations, including children with terminal illness and their families, adolescents with drug addiction, and community-based work with families. Leila brings to weSPARK a vast clinical experience, deep knowledge, passion, and an especially keen ability to work with diverse populations.
weSPARK Cancer Support Center is located in Los Angeles and offers completely FREE programs, workshops, classes and individual therapies to cancer patients, survivors and their loved ones. Remember to take a look at our monthly program schedule for more information about the services we offer.
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