ENTERPRISE — A new local breast cancer support group had its first meeting Tuesday, Feb. 16, with a goal of providing resources, information and backing for those in Wallowa County and the surrounding area who have dealt with breast cancer or had a mastectomy.
The group was put into place after two local health care providers — Wallowa Memorial Hospital Occupational Therapist Angela Mart, and Dawn Haskett, CNA2 and referral coordinator for Wallowa Memorial Medical Clinic and Dr. Kenneth Rose — responded to a need.
“It became pretty clear pretty quickly (with) the number of folks we see, there were questions being asked that could have been directed to other specialties and specialists,” Haskett said. “I felt like there was a need for some support for this population of folks, whether it be breast cancer, mastectomy patients (or) male breast-issue patients.”
Haskett approached Rose about the idea, then spoke to Mart, who said similar information was being sought by her patients.
“In working with women, I feel like I saw a need, women asking questions and asking (for) information, and a support group bringing them all together seemed like an appropriate idea,” said Mart, who in her role as an occupational therapist provides education for women following a mastectomy and exercises to strengthen them following the surgery.
“We took this to the hospital and asked the clinical and hospital leadership to move forward, and that is the root for the support group,” Haskett said.
The meetings, which will take place every third Tuesday of the month at Wallowa Memorial Hospital, will include a guest speaker, but the hope is that the roughly 90-minute sessions are organic in nature.
“We want to provide resources, mostly, right off the top,” Haskett said. “These ladies need a lot of resources. Transportation, medication management, the ability to reach out to occupational therapy, the ability to coordinate care in other states and counties. … The rest of the meeting should be spent independently for those people to share, talk about milestones, challenges, how to resolve those, sharing resources, all those things.”
“We are the initial facilitator and we want them to run with it,” Mart added.
Resources and information about prosthetics, counseling, compression garments, and even wigs and other personal aesthetic items also are included.
Haskett said she has sent information to about a dozen women for the start of the group. What those people share, though, will be more impactful than the number of people who take part — and will help further shape what the group becomes.
“I think we’re going to see various different stories that are going to occur as these ladies and some men at some point become part of the group,” she said. “I think their stories are going to vary and we are going to identify different things we don’t know about.”
Mart added they don’t want to limit the group members to just the extreme northeast corner of the state.
“We want to make this group available to women inside and outside of Wallowa County,” she said.
She also said work is being done by her, Haskett and WMH Communications Director Brooke Pace on an informative booklet “that will be available to men and women going through the breast cancer experience. It’ll be kind of a guide and give them information about the process, questions they might ask a doctor, exercises, (and) it’ll have a resource section about compression garments, prosthetics (and) wigs.”
The group meets at 6 p.m. every third Tuesday. For more information, or to register for a meeting, contact Haskett at 541-426-7919. Due to social distancing guidelines, the meetings will be limited to about eight people in-person. Those who register beyond that number will be added to the meeting virtually.