Liv­ing Proof


A lo­cal sup­port group in Con­cep­tion Bay North is Liv­ing Proof that can­cer sur­vivors need this kind of sup­port. “There’s things that we don’t tell our husbands, or our friends, be­cause no one re­ally un­der­stands what’s re­ally in­side,” says one mem­ber.

Ten years ago, Elaine Keep­ing was di­ag­nosed with breast can­cer in Hal­i­fax, but she re­jected of­fers to join a sup­port group.

One year ago, she met a friend and fel­low can­cer sur­vivor in church and they — with other friends — started Liv­ing Proof, a group that meets ev­ery month in the Clarke’s Beach town hall.

Keep­ing says her friend, Ferne Pike, told her she wanted to start a breast-can­cer sup­port group in the area.

“So be­tween some of the friends that I knew who were sur­vivors of breast can­cer, and a cou­ple of hers, we got to­gether. We went for train­ing out in Grand Falls to be fa­cil­i­ta­tors,” she said. The train­ing was done by a na­tional breast-can­cer sup­port char­ity called Wil­low. “We came back and we started our breast can­cer sup­port group.”

Keep­ing said the first meet­ing saw 14 women show up, with a few more com­ing the fol­low­ing meet­ing.

At­ten­dance varies from meet­ing to meet­ing based on mem­bers’ time com­mit­ments, like any so­cial group. Un­like many other so­cial groups, how­ever, some­times mem­bers aren’t able to at­tend be­cause of chemo­ther­apy treat­ments.

Keep­ing re­tired three years ago to Bare­need, where she said it seemed like “ev­ery sec­ond per­son you talked to” had can­cer, and meet­ing Pike con­vinced her that there was a great need to pro­vide a place for women to talk about a prob­lem they of­ten strug­gle with alone.

“There’s things that we don’t tell our husbands, or our friends, be­cause no one re­ally un­der­stands what’s re­ally in­side.”

Keep­ing said at the meet­ings — which are con­fi­den­tial — mem­bers gather in a cir­cle and light a can­dle.

“Once that can­dle is lit, and while that can­dle is lit, noth­ing goes out­side that cir­cle,” she said. Top­ics range from dy­ing to sex­u­al­ity to chemo drugs and mas­tec­tomies but, Keep­ing added, it’s not all grim and se­ri­ous stuff.

“It’s a time of laugh­ter. It’s not just telling our sto­ries. And you don’t have to tell your story, you can sit there and not say a damn word. Just lis­ten.”

She says she thinks a lot of women are afraid to look for sup­port. “When I got breast can­cer, they called me four times to a sup­port group. I wouldn’t go,” she said.“When we started this sup­port group, and the first night we had it, it was ... how do you ex­plain it? It was like the first time that I sat with a group of women who knew where I was com­ing from.”

Keep­ing added that it was al­most like ex­pe­ri­enc­ing breast can­cer again for the first time.

“Even af­ter 10 years of breast can­cer, the group has been help­ing me. Be­cause there was things that I never talked about, right? Just pushed it aside and went on with my life,” she said.

Keep­ing said any woman with breast can­cer who can make it to a meet­ing is wel­come to at­tend. “Come and lis­ten. You don’t have to talk. Have a cup of tea with us af­ter.”

Denise pike/ The Com­pass ROUGH RIDE - Mo­torists driv­ing along the main road in Spa­niard’s Bay, Satur­day Oct. 17, had to watch out for de­bris from the sea dur­ing one of this years many fall rain­storms.

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