The day they met in our cancer center waiting room, two patients didn’t realize they were creating something life changing for their community. What began as a simple conversation between strangers led to a powerful connection — and the Hope Brigade organization was born.
Sarah Halligan-Wright remembers walking into that waiting room at Yuma Regional Medical Center Cancer Center feeling frustrated and down. She was there for one of her last radiation treatments. After a while, she began talking with some fellow patients.
What followed was a conversation filled with much-needed ideas, support and heart-felt understanding that only cancer survivors can give each other.
Halligan-Wright went home that day, not only feeling better — but feeling uplifted, empowered and ready to live. She also left the cancer center that day with the budding idea of sharing that same kind of priceless support with other cancer patients by creating a support group.
“Our conversation had been so therapeutic. We stayed three hours after we had our treatment that day,” recalled Halligan-Wright. “We were able to talk with each other and knew we were not alone. We knew everyone else was going through the same thing.”
She added, “I left there so happy, so excited. I knew we needed to share that same opportunity with others.”
Doctors diagnosed Halligan-Wright, 33, with breast cancer in the fall of 2015. She and her husband have a young daughter who Halligan credits for giving her the drive and determination to take every step through her cancer experience.
“For me, being a Mom was a blessing. I knew I could not fathom leaving my daughter,” Halligan-Wright said. “I knew I was going to make it through this — beat this. She is only two years old, and I want to be there for her.”
Halligan-Wright chose to receive treatment in Yuma after she compared services in regional cities such as Phoenix with what is available here at home. She adds that she also couldn’t image having to travel during cancer treatment, being on the road when she would probably feel her very worst.
Just a few months after Halligan-Wright and her friends’ first time meeting each other at the cancer center, Hope Brigade was giving cancer patients exactly the support and understanding the founding friends had intended. Both male and female cancer patients of all ages and representing all types of cancers attend and enjoy the support group’s meetings.
Halligan-Wright explains that sometimes a cancer patient simply needs the opportunity to talk with someone who can empathize — truly relate to — conversations about everything from fears and challenges to practical questions about cooking and getting exercise.
“Nobody else truly understands what it feels like to have cancer. You can’t just explain chemo. You can’t
just describe the sensation you get from radiation,” said Halligan-Wright. “To have someone say ‘Oh,
my gosh. I have that same exact thing,' it’s like, ‘Okay, I am going to live.’ It is so comforting to know that
someone else completely understands.”
Hope Brigade meets twice a month, combining patient-to-patient support with information and
resources shared by guest speakers ranging from cancer center physicians to regional experts on
Today, having been blessed so much throughout her own journey with cancer, Halligan-Wright says she just wants to pay it back and help others. In addition to support, she added, much of that help comes in the form of spreading awareness. “There are just so many resources available for cancer patients. Every time I visit the cancer center, there seems to be something new or improved,” she said with enthusiasm. “It’s just awesome to see the cancer center grow and I want people to know about it.”
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