New Cancer Support Group: “I needed to talk to someone who understood what I was going through”

Published 12:15 am Wednesday, June 13, 2018

LAPLACE — Facing treatment for a rare and aggressive form of liver bile duct cancer, Vivian Fisher of LaPlace found comfort in speaking to patients and survivors who understood the emotions that accompany a diagnosis.

People skirt around the topic of cancer, according to Fisher, and even those with the best intentions may inadvertently block patients from talking through their experiences.

“I have a wonderful group of family and friends, but I found I needed to talk to someone who understood what I was going through,” Fisher said.

“I called the American Cancer Society, and they connected me with a group. I thought, if I need this, I know other cancer patients need this, too.”

Empowered by God to give others the support she was seeking, Fisher approached Ascension of Our Lord Pastor Walter Austin about starting a cancer support ministry for the River Parishes.

Since January, Fisher, implementation coordinator Susie Lanza and cancer survivor Beverly Harris have worked to prepare resources for the ministry, which launches at 6:30 p.m. June 20 at the AOL Piovan Parish Hall.

Volunteers have worked since January to prepare resources for the cancer ministry, which launches June 20 at Piovan Parish Hall, 1900 Greenwood Drive in LaPlace.

Located at 1900 Greenwood Drive in LaPlace, the ministry will offer monthly faith-based support to cancer patients and survivors.

“We want to be a place where people of faith with cancer can give each other hope and express how we feel without being afraid of upsetting someone,” Fisher said.

Participants will receive a booklet of resources, including healing prayers to various saints, information from the American Cancer Society and contact information for Perry’s Posse, a local nonprofit dedicated to serving cancer patients in the River Parishes.

According to Lanza, the gatherings offer an opportunity for spiritual support through prayer and open discussion about personal experiences or challenges.

Initially, the meetings will be open only to those who have or who have had cancer, Lanza said, adding opportunities to bring friends and family members will come later on.

Cancer patients or survivors and their families could also benefit from two counseling services also offered at AOL through the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

Lanza hopes to secure guest speakers to share ideas on nutrition, spiritual guidance and navigating the intense side effects of chemotherapy.

“By sharing resources, we want to find out what else is out there,” Lanza said.

“Even just sharing phone numbers and emails can be a resource. Cancer touches so many lives, young and old, and sometimes just getting a call or knowing someone is praying for them can make it known they’re not alone.”

Though Lanza has never been diagnosed with cancer, she felt called by God to help Fisher bring her vision to fruition.

“Vivian is an amazing woman,” Lanza said. “Here she is, sick and going through chemo, and yet she wants to dedicate time to helping others in her situation.”

Fisher credits God for inspiring the support ministry and keeping her strong enough to fight cancer.

For more information, call 985-652-2615.