To mark Breast Cancer Awareness month, The Press is working with Gilda's Club South Jersey to provide advice for women facing a cancer diagnosis.

A breast cancer diagnosis is only the beginning of a woman's fight to recover her health.

For many, the weeks or months of treatment is as traumatic and frightening as those first few days after learning they are sick.

The women at the Breast Cancer support group at Gilda's Club South Jersey have all been through it. They know what it is like to suffer through cancer treatment and come out at the end.One reason for the group is to offer advice and support to those going through similar experiences.

Jane Abbott, of Ocean City, wanted to take quick action after her diagnosis.

"I wanted it out," she said. "Even though the lump had no doubt been growing for quite a while, I did not allow myself time to seek several opinions prior to setting the course of treatment by getting a lumpectomy in two weeks."

Abbott says now she wishes she had been better informed before making her decision.

"I wish I had known how much of my breast would be carved out with the lumpectomy. I wish I had known that when margins were too close I would need a revision of margins after chemotherapy," she said. "I wish I had known that with even more of my breast gone and my propensity to make hypertrophic scar tissue it would leave me with a "right breast defect."

"I wish I had seriously considered that having a mastectomy at the beginning would have given me a much better cosmetic result and avoided two surgeries," she said.

Mary Gromes, of Camden, said women need to be infor-med about their treatment and advocates for their own health.

"There are no silly questions," she said. "Always ask about your progress or condition. Do not expect doctors to read your mind or anticipate every side effect."

Being well-informed at the start of treatment makes the experience easier, said Gerri Resigno, of the Ocean View section of Dennis Township.

"It does get easier once you have a plan," she said. "Ask questions. Have family/friends for support and don't be afraid to ask for help."

Billie Jo Damico, of Egg Harbor Township, also talked about the need for support when going through treatment.

She recalls feeling scared, nervous, and alone when her doctor informed she would also have to undergo chemotherapy and radiation after surgery.

"During treatment, it was suggested that I check out local cancer support groups to help me during my road to recovery," she said. "Becoming a member at Gilda's Club has changed my life. I went from thinking I wouldn't make it a year with cancer to living life every day to its fullest."

Giorgi McCully, of Mays Landing, learned the benefits of keeping a positive attitude during her treatment.

"Get plenty of rest, laugh a lot and get rid of as much stress as you can. Negative people are stressors so avoid them whenever you can," she said.

Contact Steven V. Cronin:

609-272-7242