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There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to helping those with breast cancer
Christine Holcomb, left, and Lynn Kearns lead a HealingStrong support group.

Most have been touched by cancer. Whether it be a personal diagnosis, a family member, a friend or even an acquaintance, most have had an encounter with the disease.

For some patients, those who just encounter the disease and don’t have the diagnosis themselves can add stress. 

“You need support to give you encouragement,” said Christine Holcomb, treasurer of the local chapter of HealingStrong, a cancer support organization. “Just try to live and enjoy life. The way you think affects every cell, so being supportive and having happier people around you is really important.”

Holcomb said loved ones can help during a breast cancer diagnosis by simply being there.

“Be there as a friend and say, ‘what can I do for you?,’ instead of getting information for them. Sometimes a good book helps, but just being there, being a friend and not trying to control their treatment is best,” Holcomb said. “It is so overwhelming already when you are in the throes of it. Most people are capable of doing their own research unless they are very sick.”

Diagnosed in 2011 with breast cancer, Holcomb decided against chemotherapy and instead chose to support her immune system with raw foods, supplementation and detoxification. In 2013, she attended the first HealingStrong conference and realized the importance of in-person support. 

This led to the first HealingStrong group in Gainesville. HealingStrong is a cancer resource organization educating, connecting and encouraging those seeking comprehensive, natural strategies to heal and stay strong.

“The importance of groups is enormous. Just being there listening to all the stories is exciting. It is powerful,” Holcomb said. “This is a group that is not down. We don’t say ‘I have stage 2’ or ‘I was diagnosed” — we don’t talk about that. 

“We talk about how to build our immune systems, how to get healthy and how to stay strong.”

Linda Conover has been going to the HealingStrong support group for three years, before and after her cancer diagnosis.

She, however, said the most important thing people can share when loved ones are going through their cancer journey is their knowledge.

“I’ve studied health my whole life, and I thought I knew everything until I came to this group. Knowledge is power,” Conover said. “Listen to doctors, as well as those around you going through it.”

She said learning from others is the way to “getting healthy, being healthy and staying healthy.”

“It is important to talk to others to learn from them and share experiences of what works and what doesn’t work,” she said.

Read other stories from The Times' "Pink is Stronger than You Think" coverage.