Finding Cancer Support in Unexpected Venues

Support arrives in unexpected ways. Sometimes, those friends and family members who have been with you all your life find it difficult to stand by in ways you, the patient, need.

After my third breast cancer diagnosis last year, on my birthday of all days, I had to return to cancer patient-mode, leaving the 16-year survivor and patient advocate mode. My followers and I had become comfortable with my positive, encouraging views and healthy survivor lifestyle. Some people have difficulty believing that this happened to me yet again, and some people are new in my life and it is their first time learning to support a challenge in their circle of friends. Because I had two different and complicated diagnoses, it made options and choices so much more involved and daunting. Advocate friends rallied, offering suggestions of resources and experts to consult. I did not think any support group would benefit me this time, since I was really the odd one out and people tend to become upset when they hear my predicament.

Then I contacted an online one-on-one support organization. It was not specific to my disease, and I was paired with another survivor enduring her third diagnosis as well. It has proven to be the best support solution for me. We talk weekly and keep up by text if something happens in between our weekend chats. Everything is important: our work, our lives, socializing options, friends and family, treatments, new choices, problems with insurance and stressful moments in our days and nights. In the past, I have participated in forming and growing support services for young adults and focusing on breast cancer. Now that I have moved into the multiple diagnoses category, I find a different air surrounding support. Although we live in adjoining states, we have not yet met in person. I don't feel judged by my treatment and lifestyle choices because she has different protocols and medication choices than I do, and we support rather than question each other, something I have found in breast cancer support groups in the past.

Online support groups are great because I can log in when I want to see what was posted or look for answers to my interests. However, the phone connection has been a true lifeline for me, as I struggle and continue to face challenges to my health and lifestyle.