Cancer support groups are there for those who have relatives who are undergoing cancer treatment, for patients who are tackling it themselves, or for survivors. There are many benefits associated with connecting to people like you or who are going through similar stressful situations. If you’re considering joining a support group, these 4 types will help you cope and make friends.
Why Choosing a Support Group Can Help
At first, you may feel afraid to join a support group. Telling others your story and listening to someone else’s experience can be difficult or even depressing. While no one can guarantee you’ll have a positive encounter, more often than not, participants come back to the same group because they can learn from a survivor’s experiences and give that same help to others.
In both a peer-led or professionally led cancer support group, one person will usually have more experience with the disease or have spoken to many people. Through their knowledge, they can help to work through your own personal situation by relating to you. The act of providing support can be just as crucial for the leader because they can use their compassion, problem-solving skills, and wisdom to connect to others, and you can do the same once you’re comfortable.
Signs You Need to Seek Support
Even if you have a supportive group at home, there are multiple other reasons why you may need to seek a cancer support network. Cancer support groups are equipped to handle challenges associated with the disease because they’ve lived that reality. If any of these feelings or signs hit close to home, you may want to consider a support group outside of the family.
- You’re having a hard time explaining your emotions, or your family can’t relate.
- You need a safe place to express your fears without the potential of worrying your family.
- You have questions you can’t find answers to about the emotional impact of cancer.
- You want to have a connection with someone also battling cancer.
- You want to learn from survivors how they coped with aspects of cancer.
- You feel your family is worried and/or unable to be present emotionally.
A support group won’t take the place of medical advice, but it will help you develop coping strategies, express personal struggles, and recover at your own pace.
4 Types of Support Groups
Not all support groups are made the same, and finding the right group of people for you could be a process of trial and error. To get you started, try the following types:
- Patient-Only: A patient-only support group can be run by a professional or peer but only includes the patient and no one else. This would be a place for patients who want to share their feelings without the possibility of their family hearing.
- Patient and Spouse/Family: If you’re shy to meet new people or want to have someone to share the experience with you, try patient and caregiver groups. These groups allow your caregiver to discuss fears of loss or frustrations.
- Spouse or Caregiver-Only: Spouses or caregivers can join their own support groups where they discuss the difficulties related to caring for a sick relative, child, or spouse. You can discuss these issues without unintentionally putting added stress on the patient.
- Child Groups: Children going through cancer have their own groups, either with a parent or with an adult supervisor. Children who want to express their fears of a parent or relative going through cancer can also join a group.
Online support is available for all the above options, and they may be beneficial for some people who aren’t feeling well enough to drive or have children who want to join a group alone. An online community can share information quickly, but be careful of groups with leaders without proper credentials. Research all support groups before accepting any advice.