Barbara Tako is a breast cancer survivor (2010), melanoma survivor (2014) and author of Cancer Survivorship Coping Tools—We'll Get You Through This. She is a cancer coping advocate, speaker and published writer for television, radio and other venues across the country. She lives, survives, and thrives in Minnesota with her husband, children and dog. See more at www.cancersurvivorshipcopingtools.com,or www.clutterclearingchoices.com.
Do not stop after you create your medical team. Create a support team for yourself, too.
Congratulations, you have just joined the club no one wants to join, but now that you are here, connecting with fellow survivors and others will help you make the best of it.
Getting cancer feels lonely and isolating. Family and friends sometimes do not know what to say. Find support by talking to someone who "gets it" because, well, they "got it" too. At my first breast cancer support group meeting, I cried and it was not embarrassing. Instead, I felt understood and supported. In subsequent meetings, it felt like my stress and fear dropped a few notches as soon as I walked into the room.
Try to find a local in-person support group. If you live in a big metropolitan area, visit more than one group to find the best fit for you. Barring that, try to find someone who has been through what you are experiencing. One or two people, if they are the right people, can make all the difference when it comes to emotional support. In addition to that, check online where there are support groups on websites and on Facebook.
Caveats of support groups: Keep in mind that everyone's medical circumstances are slightly unique, but that can be difficult to know online, or even in person. Keep in mind that sometimes people post or reach out to a support group because things are not going well, but that does not mean that things won't go well for you. Be cautious. You may find and be able to offer understanding and support, and there may be times and places where you need to step away.
Do not be afraid or ashamed to find a talk therapist. Cancer is an ongoing, frightening, difficult thing and therapy may enable you to get some perspective and tools that can help you. Again, it is important to find the right fit; an ideal therapist might be someone you click with who has also helped other cancer survivors or other patients coping with similar diseases.
Do feel free to avoid people who can't support you. Some people in your life may be helpful and others, for whatever reason, may not be. Be careful. You don't need to spend time around people who are hurtful for whatever reason. You may be grateful to find that some people you did not expect to help are right there for you, while other people you thought would help are not there.
Do make the effort to find the support that is most helpful to you. It could be someone who had the same cancer before you did. It could be someone dealing with cancer at the same time that you are or a support group. It could also include a family member, friend, talk therapist or spiritual mentor. Cancer patients create their medical team. Cancer patients can create their support team, too. Fellow cancer survivors are often here to help. For many of us, providing help to other cancer survivors is a way to make a bit of lemonade out of life's lemons.