Advocacy Program Provides Hope and Support to Breast Cancer Patients
Writer / Chloe Emory
Pink Sisters and Friends Advocacy is a non-profit mentoring program for breast cancer patients. It is a team of 26 women who have survived breast cancer and are now helping those who are fighting it. The women have truly become sisters and friends throughout the process.
The advocacy program was formed to give hope, love, support and nurturing to all breast cancer patients in need. Laura Bergmann is the chairwoman behind Pink Sisters and Friends, and like the rest of the Pink Sister’s team, she is a breast cancer survivor.
“When I was diagnosed in my 50s, I didn’t think, ‘why me’ or ‘oh my gosh I can’t believe it,’ because after watching a younger sister, an aunt and a grandmother go through it, I felt that it wasn’t a matter of if, it was a matter of when for me,” Bergmann says.
Bergmann battled breast cancer with “excellent care” from Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville. Through Bergmann’s journey with breast cancer, she met other women who were fighting the same battle.
“We sort of became friends, and then we became good friends, because we were helping each other,” she says. “There were five of us that were the original founders of our group Pink Sisters and Friends.”
While observing the way these women banded together and helped each other along the way, Mayo Clinic and the PA who gave Bergmann her diagnosis, asked the group if they would start this advocacy program. They felt that if they had a group that could connect with and see things from the patient’s point of view, it would greatly help in the healing process.
“We’re on the practical side, we’re on the emotional side, we’re doing the physical informational side, but we are not giving, at any time, medical advice,” Bergmann says.
The founding five agreed and built, from the ground up, what would become The Pink Sisters and Friends Advocacy. And from there, a new journey began.
“We did classes, read books and did tests before being assigned a patient,” Bergmann says. “You go through a whole process at Mayo before you’re allowed the privilege of doing any volunteer work over there.”
They wound up with more than 30 women on the team in the beginning. Pink Sisters and Friends matches patients to advocates, and by doing so, the team members are able to give an abundance of emotional and informational support to each patient. They have been through this themselves, so they’re not just there to help — they understand.
“One of the things we felt was so critical in doing this the right way was to match the patients to the advocate as closely as we possibly could,” Bergmann says. “Believe me, that makes a tremendous difference because it’s not just, ‘you have cancer, I have cancer.’ It’s step-by-step.”
When matching a patient with an advocate, they try to choose someone who had the same diagnosis and protocol, someone who could give the patient insight into what they were going to experience. They don’t limit one patient to one advocate either.
For Pink Sisters, getting well isn’t just being breast cancer free. It’s being emotionally well, too.
“You’ve got to have the great medical side, but giving them that emotional, physical and informational support is huge in helping them get well,” Bergmann says.
Although their program started with Mayo Clinic Jacksonville, they have since expanded their horizons. They never wanted to limit the amount of people they could help. They have patients in all parts of the country. They even have patients from outside the country.
It’s not just one person fighting, either. It is families, friends and the Pink Sisters fighting along right beside them. Strong relationships have developed from this program, and that’s one of the many reasons Bergmann considers her breast cancer a blessing.
“Suddenly I have all these incredibly friends that are just the most precious, giving, loving, kind people you’d ever want to meet,” Bergman says. “It’s just another way, I think, to give patients hope.”