When she received her breast cancer diagnosis in April at the age of 56, Signal Mountain resident June Wilson said she felt a strange sense of peace. After undergoing a lumpectomy in May, she retained that sense of peace even after her cancer returned in June and she was scheduled for a mastectomy in July.
"I came to the realization as I started my own journey [with breast cancer] that God intended me to do something with it for someone else," said Wilson, who was surprised to find after making a few calls that no support group existed on the mountain for women with breast cancer.
She decided to start her own weekly group, an outreach ministry of Signal Crest United Methodist Church held Mondays beginning in October, just in time to mark the start of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The meetings are scheduled for 9:30 a.m., which she said may change depending on the needs of attendees.
"I have talked to several women who have had breast cancer or are going through breast cancer that have nowhere to go," said Wilson, who thought it would be helpful to gather breast cancer survivors together with newly diagnosed women. "My intent is to help other women navigate this journey and for them to be able to see there's not a quick fix, but it's doable and you will get back what you lost."
No matter how much love a woman feels at home, it is difficult for her family to understand the experience of breast cancer, she said.
"When you first have surgery it's very overwhelming," said Wilson. "I had so many questions, and your doctors are just flooded with people and it feels like you're being rushed through."
A support group offers a venue for women to express feelings such as anger and sadness they may not be comfortable sharing at home, as well as a place to get advice from others who have been through a similar situation, said Wilson.
"I just relate it back to my own experience as a newly diagnosed breast cancer patient, when I really needed to see other people who were survivors," she said. "They can tell you, 'That happened with me,' and offer you some insight."
Wilson said she plans to lead the group herself as opposed to hiring a licensed therapist or social worker. She describes it as more of a conversation among women over coffee than a typical support group.
"It's nice to be with other women who are looking like you underneath that shirt," she said.
Wilson said she would also like to raise awareness about the necessity of getting regular mammograms, as a routine mammogram was able to catch her cancer at the microscopic level and probably saved her life.
Open to anyone, June Wilson's breast cancer support group is held at 308 Laurel St. in the white house behind Signal Crest United Methodist Church. Contact the church at 886-2330 to find out more.