Supporting Survivors

Annual Event Lifts Spirits, Offers Education & Cancer Awareness

The 11th Annual Pampering Event at BELK, where cancer education and awareness blended with activities designed to pamper cancer survivors, was held on September 16.
It was a Star Wars themed event, held from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on a Sunday at Citi Center.
A good time was had by many who attended to learn and enjoy some of the activities offered. Vendors were on hand to pamper and provide information for those going through the challenges of cancer or who have a friend or loved one facing the same.
The upbeat event featured a fall fashion show of survivors. There was even a special guest appearance by the “501st Legion Characters.” 
Spectrum Studio was on hand and ready to cut eight inches of hair for anyone who wanted to donate it to a favorite charity.
Members of the Polk County Ovarian Cancer Society were on hand to enjoy and participate in the activities. They say such events serve many purposes. “There are several factors in events such as the Belk Cancer Event that are important when bringing a cancer community together,” says group member and survivor Carol Vonesh. “It allows a person or a loved one with cancer to discuss their issues with a vendor or certain group directly, and in turn, it allows a support group such as ourselves, or any other kind of vendor to let people know they exist.
“It offers help to those who might need it. It offers a one-on-one conversation about what that group or product has to offer, and its benefits. There is usually a wide variety of vendors present at these events to choose from.”
Experts agree. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, studies have backed up the theory that it’s healthy to have support. 
“Beyond individual therapy, group therapies can address cancer-related issues to enable patients to gain emotional support from other patients with similar experiences and to use these experiences to buffer the fear of dying and the unknown future,” the organization says on its site. “One of the overall therapeutic targets is the promotion of the patient’s individual resources. Therefore, such groups are helpful not only for the patients, but also for their spouses and other family members, in relieving the cancer-related distress.
“In Germany, support groups are established in rehabilitation clinics as well as outpatient programs and play an important role in palliative and supportive care of cancer patients. Against the background of changes in the patients’ role, the increasing availability of information technology (e.g. the internet) and patient advocacy in cancer treatment, support groups may be understood as a mean of empowerment of the patient.
“The need for group interventions such as outpatient programs for cancer patients is claimed not only by the health professionals but also by the patients themselves. There is some research emphasizing that avoidance of feelings, denial of concerns, feelings of helplessness and social isolation are correlated with poorer health outcome and poorer quality of life.
“Many empirical studies have provided evidence-based knowledge that structured group interventions for cancer patients improve psychological well-being, reduce anxiety and depression, and improve quality of life, coping and mental adjustment.”
Karla Voorhees, also a member of the ovarian cancer support group, says events such as the one held at Belk offer up many such opportunities. “These events allow the possibility of educational and informative dialog, such as disease symptoms, diagnostic testing, if any, meeting information with a personal invitation to attend, and referral sources of help and support,” she says.
It’s a friendly, open forum that allows for good communication opportunities, Voorhees says. “People have the opportunity to ask questions as well. It has been our experience that people remember more information when talking to a knowledgeable person, because they tend to develop a sense of camaraderie and friendship with that person.”
And, Vonesh says, it is important to take note of the emotional benefit of such occasions. “These types of events offer a person a positive and social atmosphere,” she says. “There are fun things going on to participate in, and the opportunity to meet people and not feel alone in the world while they carry the burdens of their disease.
“Times like these allow people to let go and forget any negativity. They have fun. We believe that when a person is having a good time, getting pampered in some way, watching a fashion show, or shopping, it releases endorphins, and that is always a good thing.”  

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