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Sometimes You Need Supporters Who Are Not Family

OAKHURST — There’s a new cancer support group in town, and the first meeting is in the early evening on Monday, June 18, under the cool shade of a flowering tree, in the garden at our local distillery. How great is that?

The group is spear-headed by artist and gallery owner Ally Benbrook together with Kelley Miller — it’s open to people currently in treatment, those who are cured, and in remission, as well as care-givers and anyone whose life has been touched by cancer. Both Ally and Kelley know the value of support.

“It’s always helpful to meet people who are going through similar treatments, or who have survived and thrived after a cancer diagnosis,” explains Ally, co-owner with husband Mike of Oakhurst Spirits. She was diagnosed with tongue and throat cancer 35 years ago and then was diagnosed with lung cancer in April of 2017, just a few months after the couple moved to Oakhurst and opened the distillery.

“Being in a support group normalizes the horror of having cancer to see others with the same thing, going through the same processes and treatments. When things turn bad, it’s so good to have others there who support you through it. Spouses and children are wonderful caregivers, but they are just as frightened of the cancer diagnosis as the patient. Sometimes you need supporters who are not family.”

Kelley agrees. She was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2012 at the age of 44 and is currently in remission — five years and going strong, she says.

“Cancer patients and their caregivers often times feel isolated and alone in the fight. The purpose for the support group is to give the patient and caregivers a place to go to talk to people who are in similar situations — someone to relate to and give hope.

“What patients may not know about support groups is, that when you talk to others about their treatment you find out how it can differ from doctor to doctor, and the many new treatments, immunotherapy, trials and such are coming out all of the time. So you can compare and find out what treatments others are getting and take that info to your doctor.”

Ally and Kelley met through an online support group that Kelley administers, and they were happily surprised to find they live in the same town — a town where, before they decided to start one, there were no cancer support groups.

“Just seeing someone who is still alive is a huge help,” Ally says. “Having cancer is a frightening experience and patients frequently can’t express this fear to their family because they don’t want to upset them. Our support group will be a place where fears, tears, and and hugs can be shared.

“Survivors or folks living successfully with a serious cancer diagnosis are key to the support group as their presence alone will help those currently in treatment. Caregivers are also welcome, including ones who have lost someone to cancer. We can all help each other.”

During the first meeting on Monday, June 18 at 6 p.m., the participants will determine future meeting dates together, and they will start a Facebook group to go along with the support group.

“We can post reminders and folks can reach out between meetings,” Ally notes, adding that privacy is key to the endeavor. “Privacy is important because some people want to keep their health issues private and or may need a place they can come and share without their caregiver. This will be a what-happens-here-stays-here-group.”

Oakhurst Spirits Distillery & Art Gallery is located at 40300 Greenwood Way. Questions or RSVP? Contact either Ally Benbrook (619) 301-6854 or Kelley Miller (559) 676-8156

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