Group Cancer Therapy Turned Panic Into Gratitude


My cancer support group was as important to my cure and healing as my oncologist and surgeon.

I thought my life was over the day I learned that I had cancer. It was as if a black cloud descended over my world. I no longer knew hope or happiness. I was completely unprepared to deal with the emotional turmoil, pain, anxiety, anger and grief.

I did know that I needed major surgery and a long round of chemo if I were to stand a chance. I also found that the data was clear: to improve my chances, I needed to wrap my head around this curse and lift the shroud, find hope, deal with the pain, find acceptance and overcome the anxiety. But I didn’t know how.

I called my company’s Employee Assistance Program hot line. They connected me with a LCSW who worked with me to control the panic I was feeling and to set up a long-term plan to learn how to express myself and a kind of first aid to help with the anxiety. I started working with a psychologist and he got me into a weekly support group at the local Cancer Support Community.

In a group with other cancer patients walking the same path I was, I learned I could lift the veil, find acceptance and find a little bit of happiness every day. Words don’t do justice to how grateful I am to the group members who shared my pain, my grief, my anxiety and taught me how to find balance. They helped me get my head straight and they helped me beat my first round with cancer, in spite of the odds.

I absolutely believe that the group support was as instrumental in my cure as my surgeon and my oncology team. This is no exaggeration; I owe my life to this group of wonderful people.

Now, 10 years later, I’m dealing with a new cancer. I’m in a new support group and every week I can connect with other people who know exactly what I’m going through. Together, we learn how to tear away the shroud and rediscover hope. We grieve together, we laugh together, we find acceptance together. We live a fuller life — and longer life — because we are together.

While my current cancer is incurable, it can be managed with chemotherapy. I’ve decided to look at it as nothing more than a chronic illness like heart disease (which I also have). I’m confident that group therapy and occasional check-ins with my psychologist will continue to “keep my head straight.”

My energy goes to dealing with the side effects, and living the best life I can, maintaining a sense of gratitude. While my cancer support groups and the CSC are the most impactful and the center of my gratitude, I am also in debt to my former employer’s EAP, the LCSW, cancer therapy specialists, doctors, nurses and the rest of my oncology team. I can’t imagine living without you. I don’t imagine I’d be alive without you.

This post was written and submitted by Tony O'Driscoll. The article reflects the views of Tony O'Driscoll and not of CURE®. This is also not supposed to be intended as medical advice.

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