Breast cancer survivor gives back through support group and teaching

It’s no secret cancer patients need support, both physical and emotional, to continue with their daily lives while receiving treatment.

No one knows this better than Kathy Mercer, registered dietician in the College of Nursing.

A survivor of breast cancer, Mercer met her support group – the Pink Posse Philes – by chance while shopping. Members of the group were talking about a fundraiser when they noticed Mercer’s tell-tale pink drainage bag. The volunteers gave her information on their organization, and Mercer has been involved ever since. The upbeat women are breast cancer survivors themselves who are focused on giving support to others undergoing treatment.

Since her diagnosis in 2009, Mercer has been involved with the many activities that the Pink Posse offers, including visiting patients to offer encouragement, support and a goodie bag; coordinating fundraisers; and organizing a team for the annual Walk For Life held in October.

Through these activities, the support group is able to connect with many survivors and encourage them to celebrate life – something that Mercer practiced during her treatment and teaches to her clinical nutrition classes. “Surviving breast cancer has definitely given me a lot of good clinical and real-life examples to give to my class,” she says.

She has found that students often think of cancer as a wasting disease with patients who are sick and frail. A real life example of that, Mercer was able to keep teaching throughout her treatment period. “That whole perception of a cancer patient as someone who can’t do anything is definitely something I dispel in my class. Certain types of cancer, people are really able to live with it and keep going during treatment, especially if they come into it pretty healthy,” she says.

Mercer and the Pink Posse Philes will be participating in the Walk for Life at 8:30 a.m., Oct. 18, starting at Finlay Park in downtown Columbia and welcome anyone who would like to join their team or participate in the walk

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