My Community of Support During Multiple Cancers


My oncologist said that having a supportive community during cancer is just as important as treatment and I could not agree more — it makes me thankful.

Image of a person holding a paper heart in their hands.

Having a supportive community during cancer made Donohue feel even more thankful.

It takes a village to raise a child and the same could be said about supporting individuals with cancer. Since my initial diagnosis of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) at age 33, two mastectomies (surgery to remove one or both breasts) for breast cancer along my journey until now with an amended diagnosis of marginal zone lymphoma (MZL), I have been the beneficiary of excellent medical care and the staunch support of family and friends. That support, I feel, has been key to my survival for the past 43 years. I could not imagine otherwise.

My health care providers — my oncologists, primary care physicians, nurses, cancer counselor, radiologists, et al. — and I have had a rapport that has encouraged, not thwarted, my participation in the decision-making regarding my treatment. No silent partnerships for me. I’ve never been a shrinking violet. I’m a vocal patient, whose care team welcomes my questions, concerns and requests for options when warranted. That inclusion has made all the difference to me, a retired journalist who is used to getting at the truth by doing research and asking questions. After all, as cancer patients, we are tethered to our health care professionals for the duration of our treatment and sometimes beyond. Therefore, these relationships must be beneficial on many levels.

Concurrently, the other crucial support comes from my family and friends. It’s true: no man is an island. Especially when it comes to cancer. It affects not only the patient but their loved ones. My loved ones unconditionally rose to the occasion 43 years ago and haven’t left my side in a manner of speaking since then. They are with me for the long haul to embolden me on my cancer journey wherever it takes me. They also know that there is no room for pity in my life. They’re my rocks, my life rafts, my sounding boards, and, most importantly, my source of joy. And, as my oncologist stated at a recent Fox Chase Cancer Center blood cancer panel discussion, the support of family and friends is as important as treatment and shouldn’t be discounted. I could not agree more. I could not imagine living through my cancer diagnoses without the support of loved ones. They help to “normalize” everyday life for me and to focus on Life’s bigger picture, particularly when the demands of an acute health crisis steps in to remind me of my vulnerability. And, with cancer, crises are always a possibility. I’ve met patients with cancer who have had to undergo their therapy alone and have told me that, along with the obvious financial challenges, not having anyone to be there for them and with them at treatment is a frightening and lonely prospect. These accounts make me realize that I have so much for which to be thankful.

Looking back over the last 43 years, I have been very fortunate to have my community of support — my village of caregivers and loved ones — with me on my cancer journey. I feel I am here today because of the expert care and caring I have been given by my health care teams and due to the unfaltering warm and reassuring embrace of my loved ones.

This post was written and submitted by Mary Donohue. The article reflects the views of Donohue and not of CURE®. This is also not supposed to be intended as medical advice.

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