When Kathy Ducey and Jeannie Pellman started a cancer support group in Leavenworth in 1989 their hope was to create a place where those undergoing cancer treatment, survivors, caregivers and family members could simply talk about how they felt and feel free to ask questions and get advice from fellow members.
Ducey's dad had just died of cancer and Pellman was a breast cancer survivor.
"We just wanted to find a place where we could talk to other people about things like how to be a caregiver and what to say to a loved one who has cancer."
After almost 25 years, the group is going strong and Ducey, who worked as an oncology nurse for 25 years and is now teaching at the University of Saint Mary believes the group's commitment to the community will ensure the support group will be around a lot longer.
Ducey said many people have worked tirelessly over the years to keep the group, which is called Frieda's Friends, going strong, including the group's namesake, Frieda Epp, who died in 2006.
"She was the catalyst. She made it her mission to keep the group going," said Ducey.
The support group is focused on peer support and community service and Ducey said there have been many women who have contributed their time and effort to ensure the meetings were beneficial and helpful for local residents undergoing cancer treatment and their families.
"Judy Lansing was a main supporter for the group, she was the cornerstone, along with Linda Chapman," said Ducey.
The facilitator of Frieda's Friends is Elizabeth Vincent, who is an oncology nurse at St. Luke's Cushing Hospital. The group meets from 7 to 8 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month in the second-floor conference room at the hospital.
The group is a fluid one. According to Ducey, attendees may need the support of the group just once, or they may seek support on a regular basis.
"You never know who's coming through the doors. We've had as few as two people at some meetings and as many as 40 at others," said Ducey.
Those seeking support may be fluid, but the group's mission remains solid and helping those who are maneuvering the challenging road to being cancer free is the number-one priority.
Ducey is adamant about the group's resolve in ensuring that cancer patients and their families have a safe haven in the community. "We may not have all the answers for those who come to the meetings with questions, but we will find out."