When you are dealing with cancer, the bombardment of information alone can be exhausting and dizzying. Sometimes you may even feel like you are on your own, that no one understands how you feel. This is the time when participating in a cancer support group may help.
What Do Cancer Support Groups Focus On?
The focus of cancer support groups is as varied and individualized as cancer patients themselves. Many groups focus on a specific type of cancer, like breast cancer, leukemia, colon cancer, etc. Choosing a diagnosis-specific cancer support groups is usually best, as information can vary greatly between different types of cancer.
There are also other cancer support groups specifically for the loved ones of a cancer patient, who often need time to express their feelings outside the presence of the cancer patient.
Support group discussions will revolve around improving physical and mental health through understanding and sharing.
How Do Support Groups Help Cancer Patients?
Cancer support groups can provide a safe and supportive place and time for cancer warriors to share their feelings and fears. Sometimes they may feel they can’t speak with their loved ones, for fear that it will scare or sadden them.
Not only is a cancer support group an outlet for their thoughts and feelings, cancer patients can also connect to share information and ask and answer questions, sometimes questions that no one wants to ask or answer. Support group participants can also become outlets for help, like rides to appointments or picking up prescriptions.
Cancer support groups become a community through which they can work to meet each other’s needs. Perhaps one member likes to knit, so he makes soft hats for the other members. Another participant is a mechanic, and can help with what would have been a costly auto repair. They may also “know a guy who knows a guy” and can connect people as needed.
What Are the Benefits of Support Groups?
Cancer support groups are one more resource that can help with the treatment of cancer. Positive attitudes, safety and security, accurate information — all of these things aid in the healing process. Some of the many benefits for participants include:
- Elevate your mood
- Feel better mentally and physically
- Enjoy a sense of camaraderie
- Vent your frustrations
- Share your successes
- Gain valuable insight and information
- Use group problem-solving
Like your physical symptoms of cancer and side effects of treatment, the feelings that go along with them are on their own schedule. Fear, anger, and depression are emotions that do not care when your next group session is. Cancer support groups online are accessible at any time, anywhere, and you can chat with people all over the world.
What Happens in a Support Group?
A major component of a cancer support group meeting is discussion. Members speak as they wish and about which they are comfortable. Topics can include, but, of course, are not limited to:
- Pre-diagnosis symptoms and emotions
- Impact of diagnosis
- Treatment options
- Side effects of treatment
- Emotional side of cancer
- Financial wellness
During a support group meeting, there may be special presentations by medical professionals, other survivors, nutritionists, physical therapists, and other wellness professionals. New therapies or equipment may be demonstrated and advice given by patient advocates. The options and learning opportunities are endless.
How Long Do Support Groups Last?
There are no set timelines or meeting lengths for cancer support groups. Do some research to find one that fits your schedule and meets your needs the best. Some meet weekly or monthly for an hour or two. Others, like those through a university, are on a semester basis.
There are also different support groups for different stages of cancer to meet needs as treatment is progressing, as well as survivor support groups, and those for grieving after the loss of a loved one to cancer.
The friendships made through support groups last a lifetime.
Do Support Groups Cost Money?
Most cancer support groups are free, and cover more than just the meeting time and location itself. For example, LivestrongⓇ at the Y is a low- or no-cost program that includes:
- 12 weeks of group sessions – 75-90 minutes twice a week
- Cardio exercises, strength training, flexibility, and balance work
- Fitness Evaluation
- Quality of Life Assessment
- Certified Instructors
Individual locations may also offer a period of family membership at the Y, special classes for participants, and even childcare while you are there.
What Services Are Available for Cancer Patients?
There are many services available to cancer patients and their loved ones. You can talk to your doctor, nurse, social worker, patient advocate, and participants in your cancer support group for contact information. You can also do an online search to find services near you. A few wonderful online sources are:
Cancer Wellness Retreats
Cancer Wellness Retreats are also terrific cancer support group opportunities. Pampered in Paradise offers 2 packages for women: the Girl’s Getaway and the Ladies Cancer Retreat. This is a place and time for cancer warriors to be completely spoiled, while also having the opportunity to learn during 1-hour health and wellness seminars.
The greatest giveaway from Pampered in Paradise is the lasting friendship and unconditional support received from others who share in your fight.