“It must be so depressing working with dying people.”article-hands-hospital-bed

This is a common response when I mention my 17 years of support group work with women with advanced, metastatic (spread to other parts of the body) breast cancer. But my service to these women is anything but depressing: I have the honor of entering their “sacred space” for two hours every couple of weeks. I don’t mean religious space; I mean a place that I recognize as very special, a place to honor the lives and stories of these women, a place to relax and share with each other in a way that is different from any other place in their lives. It’s sacred because it’s theirs, and they invite me in. I never know what they will want to talk about—it might be their treatments, their sex lives, their grocery lists, the trips they are planning, or, sometimes, how to talk with their partners, loved ones, and children about their fears, hopes, or their dying…

I meet women like Anita, whose spunky nature and caustic humor epitomized the qualities–resilience, persistence, and hope–that refused to be defined by a life-threatening illness. And I meet women like Joyce, whose natural grace inspired the other women who journeyed with her through their cancer experience, creating a sense of community unlike any other I have known. Depressing? No. I am honored to serve them, to enter their sacred space, and to learn from them how to live.


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