If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with cancer, it's important to understand that you shouldn't make this journey alone. Although there isn't one ideal way to get the support you need, you do have several good options.
A cancer diagnosis can be devastating. Throughout the course of treatment, many people confront physical and emotional issues that they have never had to deal with before. At any point in the cancer journey, these issues can become overwhelming. Support groups or counseling services are often recommended. But, you may ask, "How do I find the support that is right for me?"
1) Cancer Support Groups
Not everyone is comfortable talking about their problems in a group. Some of us are by nature private, or experience social anxiety. However, there are some benefits to attending a support group. You will meet people who are, or have been, where you are in your cancer journey. You will hear how they got through it.
Some people are afraid that the support group environment is “sad” or “just about everyone’s problems." This is not necessarily the case. While a support group may address a particular concern at times, the main goal of a support group is to encourage, not wallow. A good support group should have a moderator that ideally has some medical education or training, such as a nurse or social worker. The moderator should prevent any monopolizing of group conversation, and provide medically accurate perspective.
2) Online Cancer Support Groups
Online support groups can be a great way to find encouragement from your own sofa. Make sure that you find a reputable online support group, one that is moderated by a professional and that avoids controversial or negative talk. You should observe the conversations for some time prior to joining to ensure this group is right for you. You should be wary of any online source that requires extensive personal information from you.
3) Family and Friends
Some people need nothing more than a good support system. Be aware that because they love you, family and friends can at times overwhelm you with their attempts at help and support. You may need to set boundaries, but never underestimate the power of a strong shoulder to lean on!
4) A Spiritual Community
Many find that if they have a faith community or church, much solace may be found from these groups.
5) Professional Counseling
Some people find that the wealth of group or informal support is insufficient for their needs. This is especially the case when the prognosis is very poor, there are pre-existing mental health issues such as depression, or when there are other very complicated problems in one’s personal life or relationships prior to receiving the cancer diagnosis. These problems create complex emotional needs, and someone that is specially trained to address these problems may be a source of very valuable support.
No Method Is Universally Effective. Don't Give Up.
Remember, there is not a universally effective method for dealing with emotional stress. Unique individuals require unique approaches. Don’t give up if the first support group or first counselor doesn’t seem to be a good fit. Addressing emotional needs requires that the client and the counselor or group develop a good rapport. This may require more than one visit to establish, or it may require you to try a different group or professional who better relates to you. Whatever method you choose, the important thing is that no one goes through the cancer journey alone.
At Mercy Cancer Center, we offer:
- General Cancer Support Group, which is open to any diagnosis, at any stage, including caregivers. It meets the second Thursday of the month at 6 p.m. in the Cancer Resource Center.
- Breast Cancer Support Group, which meets the second Monday of the month at 6:30 p.m. in the Cancer Resource Center.
- Mercy Cancer Nurse Navigators, who are available for one-on-one support or to provide you with information on counselors in the area.