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Finding out you have cancer can feel like you've been hit with the weight of the world. I haven't experienced it personally, but I've interviewed enough women to know when you get that diagnosis, you need a lifeline like the Pink Ribbon Network to lighten the load.

The support group meets the first Thursday of each month at First United Methodist Church. Women of all ages and stages of cancer are welcome.

I must admit I thought going to a cancer support group meeting would be sad and intrusive, but it turned out to be the exact opposite.

The meeting was filled with laughter, a few hard truths and plenty of tips that will get you through cancer treatment and beyond.

The chic couches and coffee tables in the foyer of the church create the vibe of sitting around with your girlfriends for weekly tea.

Although the group is brought together by unfortunate circumstance, they make light of some of the darkest days one could ever experience. They let women know they're not alone on this journey. The network is there to help with a bill, a meal or even transportation to an appointment if needed. Even I felt welcomed as soon as I crossed the door.

Two of the women made room for me at the center of the big comfy couch, ready to invite me in as one of their own. Once they knew I was there on behalf of our annual pink issue, the stories unfolded and the laughter ensued.

The conversation just flowed. We talked about the big chop and how it's best to cut your hair before it sheds so you feel more in control.

We gut-laughed about their wig-shopping experiences and the anxiety of wearing one out for the first time.

"I was so worried everyone would know it was a wig, but in fact no one even noticed," one woman said.

They told me about chemo brain -- "It's real," Jane Walker said. "I don't care what the doctors say. You can quote me on that."

They went on to share some of their best tips for getting through treatment and what to do to make your new reality work for you. I've shared a few of their tips in the sidebar.

Even though I'm not fighting the big C, I left empowered with a wealth of knowledge of how they made it through and an assurance that if I should face it one day, the group is there with open arms.

The Pink Ribbon Network meeting was light, it was real, it was fun. It's a group I suggest any woman facing the crossroads of cancer to reach out to and grab ahold.

Reach Zirconia Alleyne at 270-887-3243 or

Tips for chemotherapy from local cancer survivors:

• Brush with baking soda and salt after chemo. It might help with the after effects.

• Eat with plastic forks. Stainless steel utensils will taste weird.

• Suck on sour candy when nauseated. It helps settle your stomach.

• Take a large drink with you to chemo. Your mouth will get dry during the treatment. Note: don't take your favorite soda or a drink. You will associate the flavor with chemo in the future.

• The antihistamines in Claritin have been rumored to help with the pain from chemo. Talk to your doctor before taking it.

• Massage your head when you lose your hair. It feels good and helps stimulate hair regrowth.

• 14 days after chemo, your hair starts falling out, so get your wig before that starts and shave your head.

• Chemo brain is real. Accept it.

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