NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — Melissa Weaver will never forget the day she got her diagnosis — the room, the feeling, the smell.
“I have a blanket that I used when I had chemo and every time I see it there — is that thought that comes back in your mind,” she said.
It conjures memories of treatments Weaver cannot erase.
“I remember that I started crying because it was cold and I was scared … and I felt alone … and you can’t move,” she said, “so, the tears they just come, and there’s nothing you can do about it and I kind of liken that to the emotions that survivors have.”
Anxiety doesn’t always go away after treatment — in fact, some cancer survivors experience it the rest of their lives. It’s driven by a fear, Weaver told WAVY, that cancer could come back.
“You never know who’s behind you or what’s behind you,” Weaver said, “and is it chasing you have you gotten far enough away from it?”
For others, there is a fog that just won’t clear.
“I couldn’t — could not seem to grasp anything anymore and it was just like cognitively from the day of finding out you have breast cancer.” Christina Miner said.
Miner also experiences PTSD after her bout with breast cancer.
“Some of us had our breasts removed, and I have to let people know, it’s not just a mastectomy its an amputation,” Miner said.
All women with breast cancer have suffered some kind of a loss, and that is not lost on Miner and Weaver. The two survivors are also mental health professionals and volunteers for the non-profit group, “Here For The Girls.”
“We’re recognizing this need within our members,” Miner said. “We’re recognizing that our members come to the table for connection with one another. They also come to the table with psychological distress.”
The organization, with its signature calendar, offers peer support groups, social work-led groups, and soon will offer one-on-one counseling.
Miner, Ms. January in the 2023 calendar, offers yet another outlet for women, inspired by a photo shoot.
“I was standing in the mirror and holding my chest and I was like whoa … I’m getting ready to show the world my chest with all these scars,” Miner said, “and I was like … our scars speak, my scars speak.”
Now, she helps others speak to their scars with a podcast she hosts called “Our Scars Speak.”
Everyone’s scars are unique, but speaking about them to peers or a professional can produce comfort and perhaps inspiration to help heal another person’s wounds.
Another local organization, Lee’s Friends, also offers one-on-one help to those battling cancer.