Mentor, accountability partner and peer are all names we can give to individuals who support us and after our cancer journey. At a location I have worked at for several years, I have the words "Mentors & Sponsors" written above my door. It is a reminder that we benefit from the support and relationships with others when facing our journeys in life – including cancer. Having a peer who has been through the process can be a huge help after you hear the words, "you have cancer."
I was surprised to learn that some buddies or peers might meet you at your first appointment with an oncologist, sit with you during a treatment and may even offer to drive you to and from appointments if you suspect you will be feeling ill, tired or emotional. Other peers can help by offering emotional support by reaching out by telephone, email or online chat. The support can vary depending on availably of peers and how active former survivors are in the area you live, but they can be a powerful resource if you reach out.
If you are looking for ways to obtain increased support, speak to your local hospital or treatment center to see what they offer locally. You can also Google support groups which might offer online and national support, and don't be afraid to ask others who are coping if they know of any good resources and what has helped them in their journey. Some supports might be easy to come by if you have a local Cancer Support Community. Others have told me they found additional resources and a cancer support buddy by connecting with their church or synagogue. In Miami, we have several groups and great supportive resources to individuals diagnosed with breast cancer.
One thing I enjoy is learning from individuals who have experienced an illness or challenge in life and hearing how they persevered to move past those obstacles. A supportive peer may offer a sense of hope and you may not feel so alone when you learn others have had similar worries or experiences in life. Some survivors become volunteers to pay it forward and to share what they learned. It can be very helpful to someone who might be newly diagnosed with cancer, and it can be healing for the volunteer who can now guide someone else forward to the journey of survivorship.
If you are a survivor and want to give back, reach out to your church, local cancer support community or inquire with a national support group. You might be surprised how rewarding it can feel to give back. Sometimes it does not take much, but any time you are willing to give will be appreciated. To my former and current mentors and even some clients in life who inspired me with their ability to bounce back after a setback in life, I say thank you.