A group of five cancer survivors met outside of FreshVibes on Arlington Boulevard in Greenville on an overcast Wednesday – just a few days after National Cancer Survivors Day earlier this year – to talk about their cancer journey, the latest happenings in the news and recent beach visits.
Typically, these conversations and meetings would come at various Vidant Cancer Care events but since the onset of COVID-19, in-person group gatherings have been put on hold.
Dale Naylor, a breast cancer survivor, said after the last meeting at Vidant Medical Center in early March, she made it about a month before she had to get out and see what she calls “her family” in the survivorship group. The group has set up in front of FreshVibes once a week since early April to get together and enjoy each other’s company while practicing social distancing.
“It started with two pickup trucks, we were sitting on the tailgates,” Naylor said. “The next week when we came, we sat out in a parking space and put some chairs out and we’ve been doing it ever since the first week of April.”
The group has been finding some sense of normalcy in these get-togethers and sharing in each other’s journey is helping everyone through a challenging time.
Naylor said the best part about the group is how close they have become and their openness and honesty with one another.
“It’s wonderful because not only have we experienced similar journeys, but we’ve grown into a very cohesive group. It’s like missing part of your family,” Naylor said. “This has pretty much helped all of us stay sane, so to speak.”
Along with these weekly informal meet ups, the group has been meeting with Jenny Higgins, a psychosocial support and survivorship coordinator with Vidant Health, via video conferences for different classes each week.
“Right now, we’re doing everything via (video calls), we do knitting together, journaling, art class and now we’re doing yoga. It’s good to have some kind of normalcy,” said Charlotte Forjoe, a breast cancer survivor.
Forjoe said she received her care at Vidant and the patient-centered approach, from the attitude of valet service to the personal touch of the doctors, made all the difference. The services available through the survivorship program have been crucial for Forjoe.
“These classes that are free to us, it was a way for us to come together and we all had a common bond – and that was cancer,” Forjoe said. “Family is great, but people who have experienced it and that you can talk to and be open with, without judgement, that’s what you need sometimes.
“Even though I had family, I kind of gravitated more toward this group. They became my extended family and the family that I needed at that time to help me emotionally through it,” Forjoe said.
Like Naylor, Forjoe said the group has become an extension of her family and having the extra support system in place has helped her through her cancer journey.
She said she even makes a point to seek out patients at Vidant and in the community to tell them about the program and let them know of upcoming events.
“I’m that much of a believer in what Vidant offers and what they give to you as you’re going through that process,” Forjoe said.
For Forjoe, the survivorship group is about much more than surviving after a cancer diagnosis. She sees herself, and the other members of the survivorship group, taking advantage of a new outlook on life, and truly thriving.
“I’m a thriver. I’m going to live life,” Forjoe said. “To me, just surviving means you’re going through life, but I’m thriving, I’m going, and I’m not going to let cancer stop me or beat me. So I’m thriving – and we all are.”