How To Find Support Groups For Cancer Patients, Survivors And Family Members
Let’s be realistic – it can be hard to immediately find the bright side to a cancer diagnosis. In fact, there usually isn’t one; there’s only the possibility for a positive outlook on treatment and life after cancer. It’s also easier said than done to be positive and look on the sunny side of life after hearing something so earth-shattering, and this is especially true in worst-case-scenarios where treatment isn’t an option or the survival rate is high.
Because receiving a cancer diagnosis can be so devastating, patients and their families are often sent into a tailspin. It’s easy to see why – a person’s life is potentially on the line, and the depression that comes with a diagnosis can be brutal. Positivity doesn’t come immediately after hearing this news, and for some families it’s a lot harder to be cheerful than others.
This is where support comes in. If you and/or or your family have never dealt with cancer before, it can be hard to adjust to the harsh reality that it’s affecting you now. It can be hard to think of the right things to say, what to do and the best course of action. Your feelings will often come to a boiling point, and issues like grief and how to cope with the situation can be tricky to navigate on your own.
Support groups are meant to give patients and their families a place to talk and begin to heal and move through the process of adjusting to a cancer diagnosis, as well as face realities like death and possible remission or reoccurrence.
Finding Local Support Groups
First and foremost, oncology specialists should be your first stop. In fact, the doctor that gives a patient a diagnosis or the oncologist they refer the patient to should be able to readily give lists of local groups out upon asking, and that’s if they don’t volunteer them unprompted. Doctors understand that cancer patients and their families will need lots of support in this trying time, and finding a local cancer support group can be instrumental in maintaining a healthy attitude throughout treatment.
Local support groups are often a person’s first choice as they offer a very intimate setting and are easily accessible. Local cancer support groups can feel like a community that a person or a patient can escape to when their feelings of depression or grief become too overwhelming. Sometimes just being in the house, cooped up can cause a lot of anxiety and it’s good for patients to get out and remain mobile; setting into an average routine can help a cancer patient keep depression at bay.
Look for local support groups at meeting halls and churches – these are often venues that allow public meetings, are non-threatening to most and accessible to all. Though many groups meet in church rooms, the support group isn’t always necessarily religious, though support groups do exist that put a strong emphasis on faith.
Finding Online Support Groups
There are many reasons why a person may turn to an online community for support, including:
- Their diagnosis and/or treatment leaves them too sick or immobile in order to leave the house.
- They would prefer to be more anonymous than what many support groups offer them.
- They have an anxiety about confronting the issue in front of people outside of the Internet.
- They don’t have access to transportation in order to access a support group in their community.
- Support groups don’t exist within their community.
In any of these cases, an online support group can be extremely helpful for a patient who otherwise can’t access a support group outside of the Internet. In other cases, an online support group is simply more in line with their preferences. Online support groups are also accessible at all times, not just set hours of the day or certain days a week. This can be very useful when cancer patients face suicidal thoughts or ideations and need immediate comfort.
The good news is that finding an online support group is as simple as a quick Google search. For quick reference, this list from Cancer.org gives numerous examples of online cancer support groups.
Finding Specific Support Groups
Many cancer patients prefer to be in a support group that’s specific to their needs – for instance, a family with a child diagnosed with cancer may look for a cancer group that is sensitive to this specific situation instead of an all-around cancer support group. Cancer support groups can be centered on gender, age, race, types of cancer or many other situational factors.
Specific cancer support groups may not exist within your area, but it’s always a good idea to look locally before feeling like you must resort to online support methods. However, online support groups for specific types of cancer or other determining factors are much more accessible and plentiful online as compared to in real life.