Young breast cancer survivor group hits record participation using Zoom during COVID-19

Emily Lytle
Dover Post

The COVID-19 pandemic is not slowing down this group of young breast cancer survivors.

Amanda Perdue is the manager of Young Survivors in Action, a Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition support group for women diagnosed in their 20s, 30s or 40s. A mother and survivor, Perdue said it was important that the group continue supporting each other, even when that meant switching to virtual programming as soon as the pandemic started in March.

“It’s critical for us to continue to support our ladies as an organization,” she said. “As young survivors, this is such an unknown thing that we’re going through with COVID-19 and then [you might also] have the anxiety of a breast cancer diagnosis,” she said. She added that younger survivors are often more susceptible to financial stress and more likely dealing with family or career challenges. 

Many newly diagnosed women had their surgeries postponed earlier this year. Others are still waiting six months to a year for reconstruction surgeries that were put on hold, which Perdue said can take a toll on women’s stress levels and mental health. “Self-image is a big deal to these ladies, so it’s crushing,” she said. 

Still, the survivors have found creative ways to connect over Zoom, and Perdue said the convenience of meeting from home has caused attendance to soar. 

“We are busier than ever, believe it or not,” she said. In 2019, the group hosted six programs with 49 participants between April 1 and Sept. 30. This year, over the same period, 255 people participated in 12 programs. 

Before the pandemic, Young Survivors in Action often met to do physical activities like when members participated in a yoga class at the lavender fields in Milton, pictured here.

For survivors with families, the virtual meetings mean they don’t have to block off as much time in busy schedules that have become even more complicated while working or learning from home. Women from all across Delaware and surrounding states can now join in because geographical barriers are eliminated. 

Perdue said she’s seen the power that technology has in bringing people together.  “It’s been a wonderful learning experience to realize how, when we do get back to a new normal, when we can meet in person again, that this isn’t going to go by the wayside,” she said. 

Since Perdue has a background in physical education and health, the programming has often focused on wellness and staying active. For example, in one virtual workshop, an expert demonstrated some healthy recipes, and then the ladies could go to one of a few locations in the state to pick up a bag of fresh ingredients to make those recipes. 

Other upcoming events include Sleepy Time Yoga with Jessica Moyer, owner of The Ice House: Wellness and Community, a fitness center in Wyoming, Delaware. These relaxation classes are helpful for women who find it difficult to sleep during or after treatment, Perdue said. 

While the group continues to meet virtually, Young Survivors in Action would typically go on excursions. Here, members do yoga at the Chateau Bu-De Winery and Vineyard in Chesapeake City, Maryland.

In November, the group will host a virtual Barre Class and Friendsgiving. Last year, participants could meet in-person for a potluck after the fitness class, but this year they will do the class virtually and swap Thanksgiving recipes afterward. 

“Doing these uplifting events virtually is still not the same as seeing these women in person,” Perdue said. “But, still, doing these positive events and seeing a smile on their faces...is huge.”

For more, visit https://debreastcancer.org/programs/survivor_programs.