By Sara Bondell
When Marcia Fletcher was diagnosed with breast cancer she felt angry and isolated.
“Everyone stayed away from me,” said Fletcher. “They didn’t know what to say or do because I was the first person in my family to get cancer.”
It made Fletcher’s treatment even more difficult, and she shied away from sharing her feelings or joining any support groups. But after she was deemed cancer-free, an email about a new program caught her eye. Moffitt Cancer Center’s Survivorship Clinic was offering an eight-week interactive workshop for breast cancer survivors called Survivors Overcoming and Achieving Resiliency, or SOAR. Fletcher saw it as a sign and decided to try it.
“When I went to the first meeting they made me so comfortable to where I didn’t feel alone,” said Fletcher. “I got to hear other people’s journeys and it taught me how to live again.”
Over the eight weeks, Fletcher learned how to transition from active treatment and promote a healthy lifestyle through things like nutrition, stress management and exercise. The group learned meditation and yoga and even took a grocery store tour to learn how to make good choices while shopping.
“I learned that this isn’t temporary; survivorship is a lifestyle change,” said Fletcher. “And that it’s all doable.”
Fletcher says she learned the most about healthy eating, which will help her with her goal to lose weight before her final reconstructive surgery. She also used the tools she learned in the program to finally tell her family how she felt, bridging the gap between them and letting go of all the anger that had built up.
“If I had not gone through this program, I don’t think I would be able to be true to myself,” said Fletcher. “There were a lot of things I held on the inside. I didn’t deal with cancer at first because I was so focused on just trying to live, so when the fight was over it all hit me at once.”
Because of SOAR, Fletcher is now ready to tackle the last step in her cancer journey and wants to use what she’s learned to help others who are also struggling with diagnosis and survivorship.
“Just because you have cancer doesn’t mean it’s a death sentence,” said Fletcher. “You can still be the best you.”
SOAR is a collaborative effort between the Survivorship Clinic, Nutrition and Rehab Services, Arts in Medicine and Social Work, and is funded by a grant provided by the Florida Breast Cancer Foundation. Another SOAR program begins in Spring 2019. For more information, contact Diane Riccardi at (813) 745-6573 or Diane.Riccardi@Moffitt.org.