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Cancer Support Group offers caretakers an outlet

By MEGHAN BRADBURY - | Mar 4, 2021

A local Cancer Support Group has continued to help those in need through a virtual outlet, so support conversations can continue.

Approximately three and a half years ago Monica Dunkley, an RN and volunteer with Regional Cancer Center, became the facilitator for the cancer caregiver support group.

“Mr. COVID visited us and our last face-to-face support group was in March,” she explained, adding that they resumed virtually remote last June.

Unfortunately with the change from face-to-face to virtual, attendance went from 12 to three because some are afraid of the virtual world Dunkley said.

“My caregiver attendance has drastically diminished. It (support group) has not been disbanded, but people do not know this,” she said.

The group meets virtually from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. on the second Thursday of every month. Those who attend receive an email that contains a phone number and access code to attend the meeting.

The support group began because of the hardships a caregiver can experience when taking care of someone else. Dunkley said when the caregiver is taking care of someone with cancer they have to attend with the care receiver, which does not provide the caregiver the time they need to vent and verbalize their emotions.

“They carry on regardless. The quiet time we thought we would give them is the Cancer Support Group,” she said.

During the monthly group meeting, Dunkley said she will go over some acronyms to address how the members are doing physically, emotionally and if they are giving themselves the nutrition needed. It is important that the caregiver first takes care of themselves, so they can take care of others, she said.

Another important component discussed is the social aspect, which has been difficult since the COVID pandemic began.

“Socially with COVID, that is a given that no one is really social to the extent they could and would. There are things you can do. The main thing is find a girlfriend you can confide in,” Dunkley said.

The beauty that has come out of COVID is now the Cancer Support Group can reach more caretakers, as those who live outside of Southwest Florida can participate as well. The group is open to wherever caregivers are, who are in need.

Dunkley, who is 80, became a nurse in 1959 and has kept up her RN license to this day.

She became a Lee Health volunteer in 2005 after retiring from Miami.

“I have loved every minute of it,” Dunkley said.

Those interested in attending the Cancer Support Group, or finding out more information can email Dunkley at monicafrommiami@centurylink.net.

She said she will promptly respond to the email with details of the support group.

“The key goal is to contact me regarding the monthly virtual support group by remote offered by Regional Cancer Center Colonial and Ortiz,” Dunkley said.