Today – Monday, Oct. 13 – is National Metastatic Breast Cancer Day

Metastatic breast cancer (also called stage IV or advanced breast cancer) is breast cancer that has spread beyond the breast to other organs in the body (most often the bones, lungs, liver or brain).

While many support groups exist for cancer patients and survivors, it can be challenging for those diagnosed with metastatic cancer to find support that fits their unique needs.

“People are so lonely when they get into this category — they’re out fighting their battles on their own,” said, Dr. Stephanie Koraleski, who co-facilitates an Omaha support group to empower people with metastatic cancer to live the highest quality of life possible.

Working as a psychologist for Methodist Hospital, Koraleski saw patients with metastatic cancer—a cancer which has spread to another part of the body and is not considered curable—who were not always comfortable speaking about their advanced cancer in support groups with early-stage cancer patients.

“It’s very difficult for these people to find comfort and acceptance, even in the cancer community,” she said. “They say, ‘I’m tired of people looking at me and wondering when I’m going to die. I’m living, working, doing volunteer work—I’m doing these things and I have metastatic cancer. I may live a long time, so don’t count me out.’”

After feeling isolated in the wake of being diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in 2010, Omahan Kate Sommer spoke with Koraleski about starting a group for others with metastatic disease. The group’s first meeting was in September 2012 and Sommer has been a regular member ever since.

“It works because we’re all dealing with the exact same thing,” said Sommer, who continues to teach creative writing at Duchesne Academy as she receives treatment for her cancer. “We celebrate our good days and allow people who have had bad days to express that. There are no limits on what we say or do — it’s life nurturing.”

Although the meetings provide a safe place for people to speak openly about the challenges they face, there are also fun moments and a lot of laughter, Koraleski said, while Sommer said she enjoys connecting with others who are determined to live the best lives they can.

“Just to see other people who are attempting to thrive is comforting,” she said.

In addition to discussing their triumphs and frustrations, attendees snack on healthy foods and receive information from presenters on a variety of topics, including relaxation training, tai chi, breath work and nutrition — a holistic approach guided by the latest metastatic cancer research.

“Our motto is to create your best life and do what you need to do to feel as good as possible mentally, physically and spiritually,” said Koraleski, who is joined in facilitating the group by Rhonda Wise, from Nebraska Methodist College of Allied Nursing and Health, and Sister Mary Hogan, spiritual director and practitioner of healing touch.

“Our motto is to create your best life and do what you need to do to feel as good as possible mentally, physically and spiritually,”

The metastatic cancer support group, which is free of cost, is open to anyone diagnosed with any type of metastatic cancer and meets on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month from 4:00-5:30 p.m. at the Servite Center of Compassion near 74th and Military Ave. in Omaha. The group is sponsored by A Time to Heal is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting cancer survivors.

Please call (402) 401-6083 or email atimetoheal@cox.net if you need directions on where the support group meets or have further questions. A Time to Heal also will sponsor an evening educational program specifically about metastatic breast cancer on Nov. 12, 2014. Contact atimetoheal@cox.net for additional information or visit its website.