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Double bout with cancer leads to support group

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POSTED September 9, 2009 1:46 a.m.
 In 2001, Lori Davidson was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Two years ago, she lost one of her kidneys, again to cancer.

Last year, she had knee-replacement surgery which is why she walks with the aid of a walker. And wherever she goes, an oxygen tank is always in a basket attached to her walker. Problems with her lungs made that medical gadget a round-the-clock necessity since she developed breathing problems, which prompted her visit to the doctor and which led to the discovery of her kidney cancer.

Lori Davidson could have wallowed in self pity eight years ago. But she didn’t. Instead, she used that health crisis as a vehicle to reach out to other people who shared her medical predicament. The result: Friends Sharing Cancer Support Group.  It’s currently made up of less than a dozen people who meet once a month on a Friday to share medical information and experiences, among other things. Some of the meetings are held at her own place at El Rancho Mobile Home Park on East Highway 120; others at the Waffle Shop restaurant on North Main Street.

“We collect any (news) items (about cancer) in the papers that are informational, or we go on the computer and get information, so we all learn together,” Davidson said about the usual meeting agenda.

The support network group also provides a way for cancer sufferers to “have somebody they can call 24/7 if they need anything, if something gets bad, if they need help, or if they have questions. I’m only a phone call away,” said Davidson who, despite the omnipresent oxygen tank and regardless of her knee handicap, is still strong enough and is able to drive her car.

Others in the group are willing to do the same and help one another, she said.

“The (support) group is a combination of people with different types of cancer. Some have had surgery, some have not,” Davidson said.

Others are scheduled to have surgery, and “that’s when it’s critical” for them to meet those who have gone through the experience “so they can ask questions, or want to see the scars. If it’s strictly a women’s (surgery), we go to the other room,” explained Davidson.

“Every once in a while I get speakers. They are usually ones that I’ve had in my group who have gone back to work. They talk a lot about the medications because different medications affect people differently.”

At one time, the support group became quite large and needed a bigger space to meet so they met for a while at Calvary Community Church on East Lathrop Road.

She would like to put together a men’s group also, or a group that would meet in the evening to accommodate those who, for jobs reasons or otherwise, are unable to make it to the daytime meetings at her home or at the Waffle Shop restaurant.

Since the Waffle Shop is only open until 3 p.m., “I’m trying to work out something either with Perko’s” or with another restaurant in the area, Davidson said.

Wig shop helped launch support group
A friend who had a wig shop (it has since closed) and whose customers included women who have had hair loss due to chemotherapy helped Davidson launch the support group.

“She would make arrangements for them to get a wig and, in some cases, she would just donate a wig. And when somebody no longer needed their wig and wanted to donate them, we turned them over to the Cancer Society or to someone so that they could use them if they were able to. A lot of times, when you have chemo you lose a lot of hair, so we decided we needed a place for them to talk to as well. So that’s where it started, and then it just grew from there,” said Davidson who was among the hundreds who took part in the recent first-ever Relay for Life in Lathrop.

Born in the coastal town of Fortuna, Calif., Davidson moved to Manteca with her late husband in 1995 following her retirement as school librarian for 17 years in San Jose. Her husband worked at Lockheed in Sunnyvale. They had three children – twin girls and a foster son – and seven grandchildren. Older daughter Twila lives in Manteca; the other daughter lives in Santa Barbara while her son lives in San Andreas.

The next meeting of Sharing Friends Cancer Support Group is this Friday, Sept. 11, 11:30 a.m. at her place. For more information, call Davidson at 824-9590.
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