CANCER! Cancer is a word we dread to hear. We dread it regardless if it is our diagnosis or the diagnosis for anyone.

Support TeamI was diagnosed with a very rare cancer in 2007. Rare enough that there really wasn’t a black-and-white protocol. However, I was in the hands of some very knowledgeable and wonderful doctors. They met as a Tumor Team and worked hard to save my life and my leg, and to work to make me “cancer free.”

Those are two of the most wonderful words a cancer patient can hear. I have now heard those words … “cancer free.”

The purpose of this blog post is to encourage cancer patients to be part of the Cancer Support Group, which meets at the Froedtert & MCW Clinical Cancer Center monthly. We talk. We listen. We do fun things. One can say as much or as little as they want — or nothing — about their specific situation.

I’m an old-timer, and I do not know all the modern-day jargon. But I want to give a “shout-out” to the doctors who saved me: Dr. Donald Hackbarth, Dr. John Charlson, Dr. Dion Wong, Dr. Bob Whitfield. What is so unique about these doctors is they are not on a clock when you see them. If one needs 10 minutes, one gets 10 minutes. If one needs an hour, one gets an hour. I have NEVER been pushed out of the door so they can see the next patient. Sometimes my 1:00 appointment starts at 1:30. So be it. That person ahead of me needed a little more time.

Let’s not forget the nurses and techs that have tended to us. They also fall into the marvelous category. Having spent many, many weeks at Froedtert Hospital, I am not able to come up with one negative comment about my care.

So now that I am “cancer free,” why do I not just ride off into the sunset? I owe my good health to these people, and I try to pay back by being a good contributor to the Cancer Support Group. I encourage you to become a member of this group. You will have no regrets.

Be well.

— Joe Vitale


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Who do you lean on for support? What are you looking for in a support group? Share your comments below.

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About the Author

Joe Vitale was born on a mini-farm in Waukesha County to Italian immigrant parents in 1938, and spent most of his life in and around Waukesha. He attended Catholic schools in the city, graduating from Catholic Memorial High School, and went to Carroll College in his undergraduate years. He had a career in education that spanned nearly four decades, starting out as a teacher and, after postgraduate work, becoming an administrator in the School District of Waukesha. He was a curriculum director in environmental education and later a principal. He was diagnosed in 2007 with myxofibrosarcoma. "My good fortune of being cancer free has helped me realize how fragile we are," Joe says. "The past five years I have been actively involved with the Sarcoma Support group, now the Cancer Support Group and the Sarcoma Event Day ... I have been extremely fortunate with my outcome and hence the time to pay back."

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Dennis Sarauer
on June 7, 2018 - 12:24 pm

I would like to know when this group meets each month

Maria Voermans
on June 7, 2018 - 12:24 pm

Joe-I'm so happy I met you at this great support group! Support is just as important after treatment as it is during treatment. In fact, I think it is after active treatment that people need the support the most. After finishing treatment it is not uncommon for friends and family to assume that everything is "back to normal". The Journey to Wellness group is wonderful for people anywhere on their cancer "journey". It's a great mix of newer diagnosed patients and long-time survivors.

Amy
on June 7, 2018 - 12:24 pm

Thanks Joe for your kind words and contributions to the support group! It is always a pleasure to see you.
For anyone interested, the Froedtert Hospital campus Journey to Wellness Cancer Support Group meets Monday, 6/19 at 6pm in the Cancer Center Conference Room L on the 1st floor. This support group?s open forum provides the chance to share information and experiences and to receive encouragement and education.

Our topic this month is: Navigating the World of Resources - Having a cancer diagnosis can cause stress relating to the loss of a job or reduced income, change in insurance, inability to drive, or worry for your significant other, children or extended family. Discuss navigating the world of resources, as well as exploring financial assistance and government program options. This group will be led by our oncology social workers.