FREDERICK, Md. (AP) — Teena Broadrup never thought she’d need help from the Red Devils.
When she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, she tried to adjust to her new reality.
It was the Red Devils who helped her.
The Red Devils is a Maryland organization founded in 2002 by the families of two young women who died of breast cancer.
The Red Devils help with the little things in the life of a breast cancer patient — cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping. For Broadrup, it was a session of reflexology at the FMH Wellness Center that gave her a feeling of normalcy.
“I think the thing that’s so strong about this group is they look at each individual,” Broadrup said. “They’re very gentle and kind without being at all intrusive.”
The Red Devils suggested Broadrup get a foot massage, a session of reflexology and a hand massage. She got the reflexology and a hand massage at no cost.
“It was so relaxing,” Broadrup said. “I realized I could find relief. They open the door back to that other world that you left when you got that phone call.”
After her diagnosis, Broadrup found that people’s responses to her varied. “Some people act like they might catch it,” she said. “Some people don’t know what to say.”
She went through stages of grief for her pre-cancer life. “You are mourning the life you had before,” she said.
The Red Devils called with the suggestion of reflexology right when she needed it, she said. “The social workers at SOS (another breast cancer support organization) and Red Devils, they know when to leave you alone. The thing that’s so strong about that group (the Red Devils) is that they look at each individual.”
Broadrup progressed from reflexology and hand massage to yoga after her chemotherapy and radiation treatment ended. Red Devils paid for her first session of yoga classes at the Wellness Center. Starting in June, she took Yoga for Cancer Recovery.
Red Devils works with local hospitals to determine what will benefit patients the most. The Wellness Center staff thought Broadrup would enjoy the new Yoga for Cancer Recovery class. “They called and said, ‘I think this is something you might like to try,”‘ she said.
“It came at just the right time,” Broadrup said. “It was amazing they knew.”
Broadrup, 62, had taken yoga in college, but not since then. “This was the perfect thing to add back into my life,” she said. “You don’t feel like doing physical exercise when you’re hurting.”
Yoga gave her the physical outlet she needed, without asking too much of her. Class instructor Margy Smariga adapts the poses to suit each student. Some use chairs, others do poses against a wall until they become comfortable doing floor poses.
“I get a fantastic workout,” Broadrup said. “I got back into the yoga breathing technique. We all got to be really comfortable with each other. It was a very wonderful support group.”
After the Red Devils support ended, Broadrup decided to continue with the class. She now takes Yoga for Seniors, because the time suits her schedule better.
“I’m moving slowly,” she said. “I do part of it on the floor, and part of it in a chair, and I do some on a wall instead of lying down. I’m not in any rush.”
Broadrup has been cancer-free for two years, but she suffered one of the side effects some patients have, and that was lymphedema. This causes a painful accumulation of fluid, usually in the arms or legs.
Broadrup wants to help other cancer patients, and she is now a mentor for the Red Devils. “All the things they did for me, I will be doing that as well,” she said. “It’s a wonderful organization. You do nothing, and they send you a letter and welcome you.”
Cancer makes it tough for people to continue with social ties. In Broadrup’s case, she kept working at the Frederick County Board of Education, where she supervised the parent/child literacy program. That gave her the social connections she needed while going through treatment. But without Red Devils, she would never have gone beyond that.
She is also advocating that women get annual mammograms, because that is how her cancer was discovered.
Local business involved Dream Dinners is a Frederick franchise that is offering its services to women the Red Devils are helping. “It’s a great opportunity for us to give back to the community,” said Tracey Muragaki, who co-owns the business with Jamie Grabner.
Dream Dinners typically offers recipes with pre-assembled dinners for purchase. For cancer patients, Muragaki said, “We assemble the meals for them at a deep discount. They don’t have to shop and do food preparation, and there’s no cleanup.”
Meal preparation and yoga classes are two examples where Red Devils can make a small difference in the lives of breast cancer patients. “It’s estimated cancer adds about $1,800 a month in costs to a family’s budget,” said Jan Wilson, director of the organization. These added costs come at a time when the patient needs more help than ever.
“The thought of pushing a vacuum cleaner with metastatic breast cancer is almost too much to bear,” Wilson said. Ordinary tasks become almost too much.
Red Devils works with 38 hospitals in Maryland to identify patients who can use the organization’s services. Patients are served regardless of income. “Nursing staff and social workers at the hospitals determine who gets the help,” Wilson said.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)