Darlene Tiveron-Parks: Finding family with Wellspring’s advanced cancer group

June 14, 2024

Submitted by Darlene Tiveron-Parks.

On October 25, 2019, my world was turned upside down when I was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. By the time my cancer was found, it was widespread and advanced. It had spread from my breast to my ovaries, abdomen, lymph nodes and bone. As far as the bone cancer, it spread to everything pretty much north of the knee – the femur, pelvis, spine, rib cage, chest and skull.

A care team was quickly assembled and I began treatment in December, 2019. Right from the onset everyone on my care team at Trillium recommended I contact Wellspring. I knew of people who had underwent cancer treatment before me and they always spoke of Wellspring.

Initially everything was so overwhelming and to be very truthful – it took me awhile to reach out to Wellspring. For me to make that call meant this was real, this wasn’t a misdiagnosis or clerical error – I really did have cancer. The other reason I struggled to reach out is because I am a fiercely independent person – for me to reach out meant I needed help which was so hard for me to do.   But I came to see this cancer was bigger than me and I made the call. It was the best call I ever made.

I was welcomed with unconditional support, encouragement and compassion. I joined a group everyone thought would be a good fit for me – the Oasis Group that has other members with metastatic disease just like me.   The Oasis Group has become not only friends but feel like family and I am so lucky to have them.

Cancer is overwhelming to say the least as is the amount of information out there. I heard statistics at the onset that were terrifying – then I met my Oasis Group members – some of which had similar cancers as me on similar medical treatments and were in their seventh year! This was huge for me, it helped me see that the statistics are just that – best guess numbers based on trends – they don’t take into account so many variables and for the first time after having been diagnosed I felt hopeful. Thank God I made that call to Wellspring.

I have been a Credit Manager for almost 30 years and I love what I do.  When I was first diagnosed my Boss and I sat down and she asked me what this looked like for me and how she would be there for me. I told her I would not be taking a leave of absence; I plan to keep working and beat this. I have continued to work full time doing a job I love with the support of my employer. Some days I may work from home or I may arrive at 10:00 am but I still get the job done and feel proud I am able to do so.

Being part of the Oasis Group has helped me in more ways than I could ever express. We share information about our treatments, how we feel, we laugh, we cry and help each other.

Looking at me, you probably would not have guessed I have cancer, let alone stage 4 cancer and receiving treatment. Most people say – you don’t look sick.  While I am thriving, make no mistake, cancer is hard. Both the disease and the treatments bring pain and truly awful side effects every single day. It is human nature to protect the ones we love.  Where it comes to this cancer beast that means we don’t always share with our loved ones how much pain we are in or fully share the extent of our fears. In the Oasis Group we can be completely raw because we are all feeling the same thing and walking in the same footsteps on the same journey. It’s my safe space where I can let it all out, I can’t tell you how much I need this.

I have a friend at work whose husband was dealing with advanced cancer and she was the 24/7 caregiver. She stopped in the office one day and was ready to break, she was so overwhelmed. I told her about Wellspring and how much it can just help to talk, I called my contact at Wellspring and my friend received a call within a day asking – how can I help? Having that outlet available to my friend made such a difference and helped her regroup and be able to push on.

I truly commend the staff of Wellspring. They are there for us during the worst time of our lives, they see so many pass away yet have an unwavering ability to continue to be there. I don’t know how they do it but thank God they do.

This October will mark my fifth year of being diagnosed which statistically defies the odds. I’ve been through a few treatments and continue to fight the fight. I plan to meet my grandchildren one day and die of old age. I am living with cancer – not dying from it.

Wellspring is the organization you don’t want to exist – none of us want to have cancer or have our loved ones effected by it – but sadly the reality is cancer touches far too many lives. And while we wish Wellspring didn’t have to exist if you or your family are impacted by cancer you will be so thankful they do. They provide support in every aspect – mind, spirit, body for both the patient and for our families.

Everything that Wellspring does would not be possible without the kindness and generosity of our donors. When it comes to cancer fundraising many ask the fair question – where does the money go? I can tell you first hand that your donations make a direct and immediate impact on the lives of people when they need it most. You have changed the lives of so many for the better, including mine. I thank you.

One Response

  1. I’m delighted that Darlene brings the impact of support groups on advanced cancer patients to light. The positive effect of participating in these group sessions not only makes you feel like you are helping other people by sharing your personal experience with cancer and treatments you also receive unbelievable sympathy, support, and bonding friendship to continue this heartbreaking, unfortunate journey with acceptance, true expectations, even confidence. Joining a support group is the most effective way to control anxiety regarding an uncertain future by finding a secure community of people struggling with cycles of stabilizing and progressing periods without a cure but with the hope of living a meaningful life, ready for whatever will happen next.

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