Buddy Check 7: Program helps patients navigate diagnosis - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Buddy Check 7: Waterloo program helps patients navigate diagnosis

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Georgia Hodge is using her experience to help others facing a difficult diagnosis. Georgia Hodge is using her experience to help others facing a difficult diagnosis.
WATERLOO (KWWL) -

Learning you have breast cancer can be pretty scary and overwhelming, and sometimes women don't know where to turn for help sorting through their medical and personal needs.

That's why one eastern Iowa woman is using her experience to help others facing a difficult diagnosis.

Twenty-four years ago, Georgia Hodge found a lump during a self breast exam. It was breast cancer, and intensive treatment followed.

"Mine was very aggressive, so initially they started me off with chemo and radiation at the same time," Hodge said.

Hodge says there were times she felt alone and didn't know where to turn for help.

That's why, in 2006, she started a group called FRIENDS (Forever Reaching Into Eternal Needs Designed to Soothe) to be an advocate for patients dealing with serious medical conditions.

"I just want to help others, not just with breast cancer but any type of cancer or issue to be sure they get the quality care and services that are available to them to help their quality of life," said Hodge.

Using her own experiences, Hodge is able to provide valuable information and emotional support to patients and their families.

"I try to work with people to educate them to understand what they're going through, their diagnosis and what it means, how it affects their body," said Hodge. "I try to prepare them for what they might go through, the effects of chemo and radiation, and also to help the family understand the emotional swings a person may have."

Recently, Hodge lent her support to Sylvia Anderson.

Anderson had a suspicious mammogram, which further testing revealed was not cancer. But she says having Hodge's help made a world of difference.

"It means a lot for somebody to step up and try to help somebody, or go with them to their treatments, and help their family understand what's going on and all that," Anderson said. "That's a good, good thing."

Hodge hopes to establish a FRIENDS support office soon, creating a one-stop-shop for patients and their families to get help.

She's also looking to partner with local churches.

"You have to have faith. Faith is what really got me through," Hodge said.

That faith is now guiding her to help others in need. FRIENDS is planning a free "Healthy Community Forum" next Friday, May 17 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Jubilee United Methodist Church in Waterloo.

Representatives from several local organizations will be on hand, including Blue Zones, American Cancer Society, Beyond PINK Team, Splash of Color, and the Black Hawk County Health Department's Care for Yourself program, along with Rev. Michael Coleman and Rev. Abraham Funchess.

If you'd like more information about the event, or about support from FRIENDS, call Georgia Hodge at (319) 464-9076.

Eventually, Hodge hopes to be able to offer financial support to low-income families to pay for health care-related expenses.

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