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Breast cancer support group goes virtual

Even though they can't meet in person, members of the Open Arms support group find they're leaning on one another more than ever.

BANGOR, Maine — The monthly meetings for the peer-to-peer breast cancer support group Open Arms look a little different these days.  Instead of getting together at St. Joseph's Hospital in Bangor or the Beth C. Wright Cancer Resource Center in Ellsworth like they normally do, they're now meeting online.  The participants can't shake hands or hug one another.  But they say they still get a great deal out of the chance to connect, even if it's through a phone or computer screen.

Brooke Ismail founded Open Arms soon after her own diagnosis in 2013.  She says she didn't know anyone else with breast cancer at the time, and wanted to connect with other women who had gone through similar experiences. "And then once we were in this pandemic that we're in right now," she says, "we realized that we needed it more than ever. So we decided to put it online. We use Zoom. And it's great."

Sometimes the talk about cancer and recovery, and sometimes they talk about other things, especially the current state of affairs with COVID-19.  But Ismail says they always come away feeling supported and cared for.  And she points out there's even an advantage to the "new normal" as she calls it.  Without any geographic restrictions, anyone from across the state can dial in and participate in a meeting. "I would welcome that," she says.

If you'd like to connect with Open Arms, you can reach out through Facebook or email OpenArmsME@gmail.com.

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At NEWS CENTER Maine, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the illness. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: www.newscentermaine.com/coronavirus.

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