Do I Need A Cancer Support Group?

by Jun 15, 2018

It can be enormously helpful to have enough support after getting a cancer diagnosis. That said, many people just don’t feel like it. Too freaked out to talk to friends and family. Too scared to reach out to strangers. You might think about how to get yourself to reach out when it’s not really your usual path. Sometimes friends and family are not enough, because they say things that don’t feel quite right, even though they are trying to be helpful.

Many of us have images of communities of support. When we first think of support for cancer, we can find ourselves visualizing groups of women sitting in community or hospital-based support groups talking about their experiences with breast cancer. Or there may be images of family members coming to dinner every Sunday night, or friends coming by and calling.

These may not be images that bring up much that is positive for you. It is more helpful to try to build options for support that you need and can use, rather than try to change to fit into standardized models or ideas of “support”. People vary widely in the kind and amount of support that both feels good and is useful to them. If you listen to your inner voice or think clearly about what you need, you can probably get a clear picture of what would work for you.

    • What kind of support would be most helpful to you
    • What support is already in place or could be put in place without much effort
    • Who could help put support systems in place
    • What capacity do you have to let people help you
    • What are your barriers to receiving support
    • What would need to change so you could effectively utilize support?

The benefits of groups include sharing information, talking about strategies for coping, expressing feelings, learning how to communicate with your friends and family, how to handle work issues, how to communicate with your doctors and connect with others who are facing similar challenges. Groups have guidelines for how people talk with each other and are structured to work well for everyone.

There is freedom in talking with people outside your regular circle, as there are often constraints on really saying what you think and feel to your partner, family members or friends. People say things like “I’m sure you’ll be fine” and you really don’t have a chance to say you are scared. Strangers who have been through what you are going through may feel closer-in than your dearest friends. They get it and it feels accurate, authentic and connected.

Sometimes walking quietly with a friend is just enough.

You know they are there for you and care about you.

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I wish that every human life might be pure transparent freedom.

— Simone de Beauvoir