MAPLEWOOD, Minn.—Cancer. It is one of the most frightening words in our language. It is a diagnosis that introduces a new vocabulary that references stages and types of treatment. It redefines life's priorities and brings with it physical, emotional and spiritual challenges. Linda Klein and Jane Klein, each having been touched by cancer in different ways, have chosen to dedicate their time to supporting women who face the everyday challenges of living with Stage 4 cancer. Together, Linda and Jane co-facilitate the Affirming Life Group, a Stage 4 cancer support group for women that meets once a week at St. John's hospital in Maplewood.
Linda and Jane lived as roommates in college and after graduating both women married men named Bill Klein, which is why these two women now share the same last name. Linda's cancer story started with her mother, who had lost her own mother to ovarian cancer at the age of 12. This experience stayed with Linda and she feared cancer from a young age. In her early 30's, Linda knew that her good friend Jane, who had worked as an oncology nurse and later became the director of the HealthEast Breast Cancer Center, was piloting an I Can Cope Cancer Education Program. Linda was interested in writing about the program and published I Can Cope: Staying Healthy with Cancer in 1988. Linda studied various cancer support programs and saw the value of support groups and later published The Support Group Sourcebook.
Linda started the Affirming Life Group, in October of 1998. Her original co-facilitator was Donna Hemer, a breast cancer survivor. Several years after the group started Donna's cancer returned and as her health deteriorated, Jane assumed her role as co-facilitator of the group. Since then Linda and Jane have continued to provide support, love and care to the women they meet with weekly. These weekly sessions are filled with laughter, tears, and conversations about treatments, side effects of medications, working with health professionals, spiritual growth, self-care and the importance of hope.
Women in the group love and learn from each other every week and it doesn't stop in their hospital meeting room. Twice a year, the group is able to go on retreats. These retreats are continued opportunities for growth, rest and rejuvenation and they are a highlight for both Linda and Jane as well as the women participating in the support group. The group recently returned from their annual trip to Cove Point Lodge on Lake Superior. This trip is unique in that it gives the group a chance to recognize and honor group members who passed away that year in a special rock throwing ceremony. "The cove" holds many memories and a special place in the group's heart.
Linda and Jane are continually inspired by the women they work with. Their experience teaches them about hope, death, dying, grace, forgiveness, mindfulness, joy, resiliency and the lessons continue week after week.
"It is difficult to 'live in the moment'-but when we focus on the moment, we are living a full life, no matter how long or how short" – Linda Klein
Looking for ways to volunteer in your community? Visit HandsOn Twin Cities and start volunteering today.