You have just received the devastating news that you have cancer. You feel like your life has been turned upside down and you are struggling to cope. According to the National Cancer Institute, it’s normal to feel this way and to struggle with a range of feelings that may seem to be all over the place.
Aside from your fluctuating emotions, there are also the physical challenges you now face. Medical terms, hospital appointments, medication… The drastic change from your previous life to this new cycle can be jarring for even the most emotionally stable person.
There is help for you. Consider joining a support and recovery group for your specific cancer. What exactly can a cancer support group do for you? Here are some benefits to joining a cancer support group:
1. Enhanced ability to cope with your cancer
According to a recent study, patients who attended a cancer support group were shown to be more active. They used coping strategies and felt more in control of their treatment. Why? Think of it like this: If you had to embark on a difficult journey, you would likely want to travel with someone who was previously on that same journey. Or who is presently traveling that same road.
2. A safe place to talk about your struggles
Support groups provide a place where you can talk about what you are going through in a safe environment. You do not have to worry about stressing out the other individuals. Talking releases pent up emotions and has that magical ability to make you feel better, just by knowing you have been heard.
3. Find unique and new solutions to your challenges
Being able to listen to others who have walked or who are walking your same path can give you a wealth of insight into your own situation. You may also find solutions to problems that you did not know how to handle. Patients and those experiencing the cancer have a different perspective from medical professionals. Your support group members can give you unusual insight and coping strategies. The advice they give could be key in helping you over some mental, emotional, or even physical difficulty.
“OK, I’m convinced. Where should I go, and what can I expect?”
Support groups are generally free and are run by hospitals or non-profit agencies. So you do not need to worry about whether your medical insurance will cover it. Generally, these sessions are not conducted by a formal therapist or counselor. Though some may be. While group sizes differ, they tend to contain no more than 10 people in a session to give everyone a chance to talk.
Your hospital should have a listing of support groups that are registered with them. Famous support group chapters include:
Each cancer support group might have their own session format, and there is no one “right” or “wrong” way for sessions to proceed. The important elements of a session are that people feel heard and supported and that all have a chance to talk.
Patients should show up ready to share how they are feeling, as this is an important element to getting the benefits of support group therapy.
Because of the isolating nature of cancer, many cancer patients feel alone in their struggles. Perhaps they are no longer able to meet with friends they used to see on a daily basis, or their family is unable to be with them around the clock. Joining a support group is an essential way of receiving emotional support. This emotional support can go far in improving your quality of life and helping to stabilize you mentally and emotionally.
You do not have to travel alone on your cancer journey. Find those who are walking this same path and travel together.
*image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net