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‘Breast Friends’ paint together and support one another

Maxine Tatreau, 91, beat breast cancer not once but twice. [GRACIE MILNER/Special to the Lightning] Maxine Tatreau, 91, beat breast cancer not once but twice. [GRACIE MILNER/Special to the Lightning]

Following social distancing guidelines, five cancer patients and survivors met recently to reconnect and share stories over painting.

They’re part of the cancer support group “Breast Friends,” a monthly session sponsored by the Pardee Hospital Cancer Center.

As pandemic restrictions eased, the support group resumed meeting last month. Members painted pumpkins for the fall season to honor and pay tribute to those who have fought, are currently fighting or have lost the fight against breast cancer. The pumpkins will make up a display called “Pink Gardens.”
The painters included Maxine Tatreau, Susie Shields, Jackie McManus, Susan Brooks and Aline Bilodeau. Each attendee was grateful and excited to be able to meet with those who have faced similar hardships. They find strength in connecting with each other.
“I feel so blessed to have this group,” Brooks said. “It has been such a blessing and has given me courage, strength, confidence and optimism in moving forward with this journey.”
This year marks the second year of painting pumpkins for “Pink Gardens,” said Jodi Rector, the nurse navigator who guides the group. The pumpkins will be spread throughout the campus of Pardee to serve as a symbol of remembrance for those who lost their lives to breast cancer and to honor those fighting. They will also serve as an encouragement to others throughout October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness month.
“Painting these pumpkins, along with other arts and crafts, is such a fun event to help them talk and reconnect,” Rector said. “To have this time to relate to other people going through the same things is truly powerful.”
The group chatted as they painted and shared their story of the fight against breast cancer. Tratreau, who is 91 years old, battled breast cancer twice in her lifetime. Originally from Iowa, she moved to Hendersonville in 1995 and began treatment at Pardee. In 1985, when she was 56, she was diagnosed for the first time with breast cancer. Her second diagnosis was in 2010 when she was 81. An artist herself and a member of Tryon Painters and Sculptors, Tratreau has artwork featured at Woodlands Gallery on Main Street.