'Life With Cancer' community offers support & hope

4:17 PM, Aug 9, 2013   |    comments
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FAIRFAX, Va. (WUSA9) -- People battling cancer will tell you beating the disease is not just about chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery.  It is also about keeping your spirit strong in the process.

Sixty-year old Patty Robertson knows how difficult that can be.  She remembers, "I was diagnosed with breast cancer about fifteen months ago.  I didn't really deal with the emotional aspect of it until I was done with treatment."

At that point, Robertson felt isolated.  She says, "I didn't have a lot of family or emotional support.  I had a really hard time wrapping my head around the fact that I had breast cancer."

Then Patty discovered a program in Fairfax within the Inova Health System called "Life with Cancer".  Its primary facility is the Dewberry Life with Cancer Family Center, also called "Carolyn's House".  The Center provides free programs, emotional support, and a network available for all cancer patients and their families.

Susan Carroll is the Vice President of Oncology Services for the Inova Health System.  She says, "We have yoga, massage, we have a wonderful drum therapy class.  We do 'Look Good, Feel Better' classes.  We believe that our mission is to provide these services at no cost."

Sixty-five year old Jim Reeves is another member of this community. "They found cancer in my colon and some lymph-nodes, they removed that," he says.

Jim then began chemotherapy, and felt very alone as a widower with no children.  "Life with Cancer" changed that.  "The best part about it to me is being around other people who are in the same situation. So I feel like I'm not alone and that's helping me a great deal," he says.

The Dewberry center is designed to be a welcoming space, complete with a library, kitchen, fireplace, and calming landscapes. 

"We call it 'the house.'  We really wanted to build this environment so they didn't feel they were doing it in a really medical setting," says Carroll.

Patty Robertson sums up her experience: "It felt like I was embraced by this warm blanket of comfort and caring and you don't have to talk about cancer if you don't want to. The activities are great because it takes your mind off it."

All programs, counseling services, and classes are free, with the exception of massage.  Visitors to "Life with Cancer" do not need to be patients within the Inova Health System.