The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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October 24, 2013

Breast Cancer Awareness: Surviving Cancer

Part 4 of our Breast Cancer Awareness Series

CLINTON — Whether a survivor, a caregiver or someone still struggling with cancer, Clinton’s cancer support group is open to anyone dealing with any type of cancer.

The support group had been housed for several years at Mercy Medical Center. Three years ago, Zion Lutheran Pastor Jen Henry restarted the group at her church at the request of a member of her congregation diagnosed with colon cancer.

"This is a sharing group. It's a cheerleading group," Henry said. "For some people, it's the first place where they've shared their whole story, because it's safe."

Sharon Criss has been affected by cancer three times; in 1975 for her daughter, in 2000 for her husband, Norm, and in 2007 with her mother. She remembers receiving the diagnosis from the doctor each time.

"It is difficult to hear, but we make it even more difficult if we turn inward and try to deal with this alone," Criss said. "I'm thankful that each time we chose to reach out to others for support of all kinds... from family, friends, co-workers, church family and extended family everywhere."

The cancer support group was part of that extended family for her. Her husband, Norm, spoke of the other cancer survivors as his "Cancer Buddies."

Debra Stange said that while people diagnosed with cancer need support from family, friends and others, there are times when it is good to sit down with others "who are dealing with the same thing and really understand what you are going through."

She added that she gets to know the others attending and remembers them in her prayers until she meets them again.

"We share what we are going through that week or weeks past when we get together each month," Stange said. "We talk, ask questions, get answers or just to let it out how we are feeling it helps, we laugh or cry. It is always OK and we pray for each other if we want to."

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