Pairing breast cancer patients, survivors

Pink Pathways aims to ensure women have crucial support

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

Published:

 

If you go

• What: Pink Pathways Program kickoff.

When: 5 to 9 p.m. Oct. 17.

Where: Bella Organic Farm, 16205 N.W. Gillihan Loop Road, on Sauvie Island in Portland.

• Activities: Launch the new mentor program for breast cancer survivors. At 7 p.m., breast cancer survivors will light the way through the corn maze. Event also includes pumpkin patch, hay maze and bounce house for kids.

Information: Pink Pathway Program.

Trudy Anderson determined her post-breast cancer pathway soon after her diagnosis in August 2011. She knew she had to use the life-changing diagnosis to change the lives of other women.

"If this was going to come into my life, I wanted it to be used," Anderson said.

Not everyone's path is so clear. A new nonprofit program aims to help breast cancer survivors find their path and guide them through their journey.

The Vancouver-based nonprofit, Pink Lemonade Project, and the Baraka Institute's coach training division in Portland worked to create the Pink Pathways Program, which will officially launch Oct. 17.

Pink Pathways pairs professionally trained mentors, who are themselves breast cancer survivors, with women who are recovering from breast cancer and looking to return to their lives, said Feroshia Knight, Baraka Institute founder. The program runs for 10 to 12 weeks.

Many women lose pieces of their support system when the cancer treatment ends. At the same time, they may be questioning their own identity and what they want from life, Knight said.

"There's this big drop-off," she said, "and they kind of feel lost."

That's where the Pink Pathways mentor program steps in, Knight said.

The mentors, who will go through the program themselves, help the women find a direction for their lives and empower them to achieve their goals, Knight said. Some women may set health and wellness goals, others might choose creative endeavors. For some women, improving relationships or regaining financial stability are priorities. While others may focus on giving back or helping other women with cancer, Knight said.

"It's up to them to choose what changes they want," she said.

The program is also giving Anderson an opportunity to fulfill her goal; she's a Pink Pathways Program

mentor.

Anderson, 49, was surrounded by a strong support system after her diagnosis. That support, and her positive outlook, helped her through her treatment, double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, she said.

"I had such a good experience, and I've met women who haven't," Anderson, 49, said. "It goes back to the support. I think it is very beneficial, and I think I'm the exception."

Anderson hopes she can provide other women with that vital support.

"I just really hope this will be a program that will help women come through their journey," she said.

Anderson and the other mentors will receive professional training before being paired with breast cancer survivors. That training includes instruction on how to empower the women to set and achieve their goals and how to recognize when someone needs help beyond the scope of the program (such as a referral to a therapist or medical provider). Mentors will also be trained in ethics and best practices, Knight said.

"It's not about having a best friend," Knight said. "It's about having someone who really gets who you are, who sees you as whole, empowers you to be the person you want to be."

"It's about having that next level of support to get back to life," she said.


Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546; http://twitter.com/col_health; http://facebook.com/reporterharshman; marissa.harshman@columbian.com.