A Worthwhile Decision: Joining a Cancer Support Group
Stephanie J. Hammonds
Editor’s Note: This piece was submitted by a contributing writer and does not represent the views of CURE Media Group. After being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2009, I noticed a feeling of isolation creeping in during the months of my treatment. As the weeks progressed, these feelings became more pronounced. By the end of treatment, I was ready to consider joining a local gynecologic cancer support group where I could meet women with similar experiences. After a bit of indecision, I decided to try.
That was several years ago, and I’m still attending the group’s monthly meetings. My small experiment into the unknown world of cancer support groups and their various topics, ups and downs, and twists and turns has been of immense help to me in ways I never expected!
Others who share my cancer experiences have walked in my footsteps and experienced the exact same ups and downs as I have. I’ve found it incredibly easy to befriend other women who know exactly how I feel, including my fears, triumphs and thoughts. I have met the “faces” of cancer, and, just like me, they earnestly seek help and support.
Women in my group cheer on the good news, share uplifting thoughts with the bad news and offer their kindness and concern to anyone in need. We stay in touch with cards and emails to check on each other, encourage one another, and show how much our kind thoughts matter.
Getting first-hand information on how if feels to take a new treatment or undergo a different test or procedure is beyond helpful. There is nothing like being able to ask another human being what it feels like to experience a different regimen. At the end of the conversation, I feel uplifted and comfortable knowing what to expect. I love to learn everything I can about my illness, including the new breakthroughs and latest research and findings. I also love to share that information with others. It makes me feel empowered.
Also, having a monthly meeting to attend gives me some structure in my days and helps me focus my life. Catching up with the group is great, and we often welcome newcomers. Despite the serious illness that brought us together, the support group is actually a great source of pleasure.
Spending time with others who totally understand my situation gives me such comfort. There is no need to think out long explanations, choose perfectly planned words or apologize for a bad day. Once you’ve experienced cancer, you know it’s perfectly OK to be tired, sad or disappointed. Apologies are not necessary.
So much personal satisfaction comes from helping others. Just a smile, kind word or letting a person know that they’re welcome will do. All these things matter to someone struggling with a cancer diagnosis. Sometimes hugs are exchanged. Sometimes we laugh together, and sometimes we cry. It all helps.
A cancer support group offers truly unique and wonderful benefits and, as I found out, there are no negatives! Groups come in all shapes and sizes, and are often tailored to the type of cancer you are experiencing.
I recommend finding a support group. Engage a social worker or member of your medical team to help. Discover when and where they meet, then try one meeting as I did. As an ordinary person just trying to find my way back to health and better understanding what I’m dealing with, I took that little leap. My experiment has lasted for seven helpful, comforting and uplifting years.