A cancer diagnosis can make you feel lonely and isolated from everyone. You may feel like no one can understand the different treatments you're going through or the fact that there are days when you feel alone.
It's nice to connect with a group of people who understand your feelings and share a similar experience. For example, as a cancer caregiver, I don't know how to explain my struggles or challenges to my friends, so it helps when I attend a support group because it makes me feel like I'm part of a community.
The Importance of Support when Navigating Cancer
It's important to have a group of people that you can communicate with during this time. You'll notice that people who you thought were close to you may “ghost” you. This is a side effect of cancer that people may not tell you about.
This was a side effect that my father experienced, and he had a hard time coping with the fact that most of his close friends and family had stopped talking to him. But, to his surprise, he did notice that he made a lot of friends in the hospital where he was getting his treatment from.
One of the most memorable experiences for my parents was when my father was admitted to the hospital. As my father began battling prostate cancer, his urinary tract got blocked, a common stage 4 prostate cancer side effect. After being admitted to the hospital so many times, he was upset.
On this stay, he shared his room with a stage 3 colon cancer patient. She was barely in her late 30s and was upset that her recovery was taking longer than usual. For some unexplainable reason, my parents and the other patient and her partner formed a bond for the few days that they stayed together. My mother stayed during the day and would talk to her and her partner. They would discuss the pros and cons of the hospital or what it was like to be a cancer caregiver. My father and the other patient would talk from their beds as it was difficult to leave for too long.
To this day, my parents are grateful for the support and encouragement they got from the couple that was going through a similar expereince at the same time.
Different Types of Cancer Support Groups
There are 4 main different types of cancer support groups that you can join:
- Peer-led support group: This is a support group that is led by other members in the group, often who've gone through cancer themselves. These groups are often held in an informal setting, maybe a Zoom Meeting or in-person if possible.
- Professional- led support group: In this type of group, there is normally a counsellor, psychologist, or social worker who leads the group discussion. This support group often has slightly more structure and can be found in many hospital networks or treatment centers.
- Online support groups: These groups can be led by a peers or professionals, and have the advantage of being available to you at any time. Some are available all the time, or are an informal gathering with no set agenda.
- Information-related support groups: This type of support group is often broken into specific types of cancer or ages of patients. Since each type of cancer is different, and your age impacts how you navigate cancer, these types of groups can be helpful for connecting with people like you.
Cancer Support Groups for Families
It is important that not only the cancer patient is part of a support group, but their families are also part of support groups. The mental well-being of the family is just as important as the patient. As a cancer caregiver myself, there are times when my friends may not understand what I'm going through or why my emotions are on a rollercoaster. But being a part of a support group helps me process the feelings that I'm having.
Support Groups for Cancer Patients
It's important that a cancer patient doesn't feel alone or isolated. Support groups offer a space for patients to express how they're feeling, vent to people who understand, and discuss what is working for them. Groups like these can help give a cancer patient more hope and resiliance then navigating cancer alone.
Finding a Cancer Support Group that Works Best for You
Ask yourself these 5 important questions:
- Are you comfortable talking to the members of the support group?
- Do you feel better after the support group meetings?
- Are you ok with the schedule of the support group?
- Does everyone listen to each other?
- Do you feel positive vibes or get a positive feeling from the group?
Signs of a Good Community
The 4 signs of a good community are:
- Each person’s experience is validated and accepted: It's important that you feel that you are heard and feel happy after each meeting.
- Comfort: Do you feel that the group makes sure that it is a safe space to discuss your feelings, fears, and experiences? If yes, yay!
- Not contributing to the group: Sometimes you may feel like just listening to the group discussions. If your group is ok with that, that's great! You can learn a lot from just listening as well.
- Support and advice: The group provides advice and support when you ask for it, but doesn't force you to follow the advice that they give.
Resources for cancer patients and families
There are different online resources that are available to cancer patients and their caregivers. You can ask your oncologist or search online for support groups. You could also contact us here at OneVillage and we're happy to help send you in the right directuon! We can help you build a Village so you don't feel alone or isolated as a cancer patient or as a cancer caregiver.
Join Our Online Community Today
Join the OneVillage community for resources on cancer support. For individual support, please reach out to email@example.com and a OneVillage team member will be available to help!