You’ve been diagnosed with cancer - now what? Who can you turn to for help, and how do you know what advice to trust? One thing that can be very helpful is talking with people who understand what you’re going through: other cancer patients and survivors. You may feel very alone, but there are people who have stood where you do and want to make your experience a little less isolating.
But how do you find people you connect with, especially when you’re filled with anxiety? Coping with cancer is more than coping with illness, it’s also dealing with all the emotions that will come your way along with the ups and downs of treatment and beyond.
The Initial Shock of a Cancer Diagnosis
When you’re first diagnosed with cancer, you’re probably in a state of shock. Cancer isn’t something you plan for or expect to happen to you, especially if you’re young or don’t have any family history of cancer.
Coping with cancer can also be difficult because your loved ones don’t understand exactly what you’re going through as the patient. If you don’t know anyone who’s been diagnosed before, this can feel like a really lonely experience that no one in the world could understand.
It’s okay to take time to yourself to process your emotions, especially early in diagnosis. However, if you isolate yourself too much, it may be harder to talk about what you’re going through with others when you do have the opportunity.
How a Cancer Diagnosis Can Be Isolating
Coping with cancer can be especially isolating before you have a chance to talk to other survivors. This is even more true if you live far away from your close loved ones like family and friends (these days, we aren’t all lucky to have our support system living next door).
Another part of cancer being isolating is that as treatment begins, you’ll most likely feel too tired to maintain the social life you previously enjoyed. While there will be days you feel good enough to get out and about, the odds are that you’ll probably say ‘no’ to invites more often than you’ll say ‘yes’ while in active treatment.
That’s why it’s so important to find a community who understands, whether that’s in-person or online. Cancer support groups online can be very helpful, or you can ask your oncology team for advice for in-person groups.
How to Connect with Others when Coping with Cancer
It’s scary to meet new people, especially if you’re already under stress while coping with cancer. Know that cancer won’t be your entire life, although it can feel like it, and it’s important to connect with other cancer survivors that you can relate to outside of cancer.
Here’s how to connect with others when coping with cancer:
Lean Into Support
Chances are there are lots of people who want to help you. It can be hard to accept help, especially when you’re not someone who usually needs help. But during your diagnosis, you will need it, so accept the kindness when it’s offered!
You’ll notice that a lot of people want to help but don’t know how. That’s your chance to ask for what you need! If someone asks “how can I help” (even though that’s a hard question to answer) be prepared with a list of things you need so it’s easier to respond. Everyone in the situation will be better off if there is a direction to go.
Answering this question is one of the reasons OneVillage was created. Our WishList feature is designed to help you answer the question “how can I help?” Learn how to use your WishList today!
Surround Yourself with Positivity
Staying positive while coping with cancer can seem like a daunting task. What is there to stay positive about?
It may seem impossible, but looking for positive things that still exist in your life (like a hug from a loved one or a new episode of your favorite TV show) can help make your days a little easier to cope with.
Surrounding yourself with people who make your life more positive is important too. If you find yourself surrounded by negative people, it will be even more difficult to stay positive.
However, too much positivity can be harmful too! You can't be positive ALL the time, but trying your best to have at least one or two good moments a day can make all the difference.
Finding Your Community
There’s a community out there for you. If you liked running before your diagnosis, there are lots of ‘Running with Cancer’ groups that can offer you connections. Maybe you’ve always loved music - connecting with other survivors that use music to bring them joy during a diagnosis can make you feel a lot less alone. Those are just two examples!
Finding your community is another reason that OneVillage exists. Join our community groups to learn from other patients and survivors who’ve been through this too! If you have an idea for a group on OneVillage, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another great place to find connections is within Facebook Groups. Whether you join groups based on your age or cancer type or interests, these online support groups really help make coping with a cancer diagnosis a little easier.
Tips for Staying Connected
Once you’ve found a group of people like you, staying connected and engaged is important for your mental health too! Whether that’s talking or posting daily or just once a week, having a community to look forward to can make treatment days a little easier.
Another great idea is to set up time on your calendar for phone calls or FaceTimes with loved ones. Scheduling this time means that when you’re feeling good, you know you won’t miss a great conversation! But, if you’re not feeling well one day, those recurring events will always pop up again in a week.
Another piece of advice is to keep a list of resources to turn to when you’re feeling overwhelmed or down. We’ve listed our favorite stories below:
Breast Cancer Support Groups
If you’re a breast cancer patient, there are plenty of breast cancer support groups online. Find Facebook Groups to join or use the hashtags #BCSM on Instagram or Twitter to find other people like you with a breast cancer diagnosis.
Online cancer support networks
The internet is a big place, with many, many, MANY resources! We know that spending hours searching the internet is not what you have time for, so we’ve listed our favorite online cancer support networks below:
- The OneVillage Facebook Group: Our Facebook Group is a place for Real Talk About Cancer! There, our community has honest conversations about anything and everything related to cancer.
- Bright Spot Network: If you're a parent or caregiver of young children who has been diagnosed with cancer, Bright Spot Network is the place for you.
- Imerman Angels: Are you looking to connect with other patients as a mentor or a mentee? Imerman Angels offers a program of comfort and understanding for all cancer fighters, survivors, previvors and caregivers through a personalized one-on-one connection with someone who has been there.
You Are Not Alone
The most important thing to remember during this experience is that you are not alone. If you're seeking additional assistance, please reach out to our team at email@example.com. Our team is here to help.