Michele Robinson came up with the idea for her cancer support group, “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” during her first chemotherapy treatment for ovarian cancer in November 2004. “I was looking around the room and that song popped into my head. It was true—even though you do experience cancer yourself, no one knows what you feel but you—you don’t have to go through it alone.”
Today, “You’ll Never Walk Alone” welcomes survivors of all types of cancer, as well as “co-survivors”—spouses, family members or friends who are helping care for someone with cancer. Michele has experience with both sides: she is a survivor of breast and ovarian cancers, and cared for her late husband and father as they dealt with stomach, laryngeal and prostate cancers.
The support group meets twice a month in Michele’s home in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. Each meeting focuses on a discussion topic, such as finances, dealing with health insurance and issues with intimacy. Survivors also raise their own concerns and learn from one another. One recent example was a woman who was about to start chemotherapy and was worried about side effects. The group put her at ease by explaining how they reacted to chemotherapy. “When they give you this list of side effects, you might get none of them or you might get the whole ball of wax,” says Michele.
Living in Hawaii poses unique challenges for patients undergoing cancer treatment. “Being here on an isolated island, and the furthest away from everything, the whole world is different,” says Michele. Cancer patients often have to travel to Oahu for treatment, which takes both time and money. Some survivors travel from Hilo—on the other side of the island—to attend meetings of “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” The group also welcomes visits from cancer survivors who are vacationing in Hawaii. As Michele notes: “A lot of people who have gone through the disease come to Hawaii. This is a place of healing. That doesn’t mean that they don’t need a meeting, especially if they’re coming for a long stay. We are open to their needs.”
As an ovarian cancer survivor, Michele has been connected with the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance since 2005. When she moved to Hawaii and started “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” becoming a Partner Member of the Alliance was a way to spread information about the disease to a community that wasn’t being served. “There was nothing here. No one had information,” recalls Michele. Now, thanks to “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” cancer survivors on the Big Island have a source of information and support throughout their journey with the disease.
To learn more about “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 808-333-5328.