Cancer Focus NI launch support group to help young breast cancer patients- THRIVE community

Local cancer charity, Cancer Focus Northern Ireland is delighted to announce a unique new support service specifically for younger women with a breast cancer diagnosis – the Thrive Community that has been funded by the Cancer Focus NI Support Your Girls campaign.

Cancer Focus NI group facilitator, Caroline Hart says it is a community to help support affected younger women who are ready to ‘Thrive’ and is there for as long as support is needed: 

“Younger women who have a breast cancer diagnosis can be impacted by issues that can dramatically affect their current lifestyle and plans for the future. These might be issues around balancing childcare when they are going through treatment, working out a new work/life balance, supporting their parents, partner and children through the diagnosis and treatment, as well as issues around fertility and ongoing treatment.  

“We wanted to create a safe space specifically for younger women to give them the opportunity to share their experiences with each other while being supported and encouraged by our staff. We also wanted to give them the opportunity to engage in a variety of healthy activities together that are good for both their physical and mental health.” 

A community like Thrive is exactly the type of support that local woman Elaine Phillips could have used when she was diagnosed with breast cancer aged 38. A mother of two young children, Elaine recounts how the diagnosis stopped her in her tracks. 

Elaine said “I attended a local exercise group for people with cancer and it hit me hard that I was much younger than anyone else there. It really struck me then that there was a lack of services for younger people and that’s why I’m so pleased Cancer Focus NI is launching a support group for younger women.  

Elaine continued “A group and space to share the journey, to know that you are not the only one that this is happening to. A group to help you work out the new medical language you need to know and understand, share hints and tips about hair loss or scar creams. A group who understands the fertility and hormonal issues that young women with breast cancer face. Or for those with kids to share their ideas of how to talk to children about cancer or share hacks of suitable games to play on your bad days. People who may have the same fears or questions as you.” 

For those that would like more structured help with their thinking around their health and wellbeing, ‘Thrive Coaching’ would be a good place to start. This is a 6-session peer support group coaching programme which is packed with tools and techniques to help group members reflect on where they are now and how they might want to move forward. Sessions include goal setting, exploration of common emotions and management of different types of thinking. Managing stress and boundaries, values and needs recognition, and of course how a cancer diagnosis can affect physical health, will also be explored. 

Cancer Focus NI has planned a restorative retreat in Donegal in November with yoga, beach and forest walks, and art therapy sessions in a beautiful location. There will be ample time created for participants to share experiences with each other during the retreat. In addition to the retreat, Cancer Focus NI has other support activities in a variety of locations throughout the year. These include Art Therapy sessions, Nordic Walking sessions (good for lymphatic drainage) and an 8-week Mindfulness course specifically designed for people with cancer. 


Caroline added: “The purpose of our Thrive Coaching Programme is to create a safe space for these women, time to reflect on what they have been through and how they might move on in a positive way. So, if this is something you would be interested in finding out more about or if you’d like to join our Thrive Community, please do get in contact.”  

Elaine would encourage any women on a similar situation to sign up:

“I have been so lucky to receive peer support from women of a similar age in a similar situation as me, and that support has been absolutely priceless. I believe Cancer Focus NI’s new Thrive support group is a wonderful initiative and will help so many younger women with breast cancer, right from the beginning of their diagnosis.  I would encourage anyone who is in this situation to find out more and see if they can benefit from the programme.” 

You can contact Caroline on carolinehart@cancerfocusni.org or 07773 129 599 for further information and to join our private Facebook group.