Cancer survivors share hope, love

Published 8:25 am Friday, April 17, 2015

Any woman’s world is turned upside down after a diagnosis of breast cancer.

Holly Rester and Lisa Miley were no different. After they received the discouraging news, they received the necessary treatment but took it one step further.

Along with Donna Penton and Wendy Nielsen, Rester and Miley formed Ladies Loving Life, a breast cancer survivor group in Washington Parish.

“Ladies Loving Life is a social event. We have fun and have guest speakers, play games and have refreshments,” Rester said. “It’s a time of fellowship. We chose the name of the group because we wanted something fun and uplifting.”

The group began in January and has one meeting per month. From six attendees that first month, the group has grown to 25.

“It’s been very successful,” Rester said. “Speakers are very knowledgeable about cancer care and life after cancer.”

Rester underwent a double mastectomy last year.

“I was just overwhelmed,” Rester said. “That’s the best way to say it.”

Miley was diagnosed seven years ago.

“It was devastating to hear that news,” Miley said. “When you hear that you’ve got cancer you know your whole world and your family’s is going to change. And it did.”

The group formed shortly after Rester’s diagnosis.

“That was how this group got started. When Holly got diagnosed, there were questions like the ‘where do I go from here?’ and ‘what do I do now?’ feeling,” Penton said. “There was nowhere to go around here for information.”

Penton said speakers’ messages at meetings hit home.

“They’re able to discuss the different aspects of specific cancers and effects of the medicines they take,” Penton said. “They can discuss the effects of cancer on families. Patients learn how to deal with stress and how to work with side effects of medicines.”

The group confers with Mary Perkins Cancer Centers and American Cancer Society for any information they can.

“There is a need in our area for information and support about cancer,” Miley said. “Working in the medical field, we hear about so many people who have cancer. Everybody leaves the meetings with more knowledge and with a sense of not being alone.”

Nielsen said meetings have taught her to be aware.

“I think going to meetings has made me more proactive in having screenings,” Nielsen said. “The speakers talk about diet, medicine and depression. They make it where if you have to make a decision they let you know you have options.”

Ladies Loving Life will have a tent at the May 2 Relay for Life at Cassidy Park. Relay for Life will be from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The group said all survivors of all types of cancer are welcome at the meetings, which are held at 6 p.m. the second Tuesday of each month at the Bogalusa Senior Citizens Center on Willis Avenue. The meetings are open to anyone.