Networking: Building a Support Team

CUREWinter 2012
Volume 11
Issue 4

Tips for building a support team after a cancer diagnosis.

Coping with a new cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment is a life-changing event. The following techniques can help patients build a balanced network of support as they proceed:

Rely on a gatekeeper. Patients should ask someone to help protect their privacy as they come to terms with their condition. This person can share messages with family and friends and tell them that the patient will be in touch.

See a social worker. Oncology social workers can help patients with transportation and financial resources, as well as disability and insurance issues. They also provide emotional support and help patients communicate effectively with their medical team.

Try creative therapy. Many centers offer art and music therapy sessions to relieve the stress of the cancer experience. Creative therapy can help patients relax and change their mood.

Go virtual. Locate online communities that help patients who are unable to make the trip to hospital group meetings, such as WhatNext (, developed in part with the American Cancer Society.

Practice self-care. Massage, meditation or warm baths can offer a necessary distraction that patients can control. Kay Guidry, a social worker at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center in Indianapolis, also encourages patients to make a “worry box” where “they write down every day what they’re worried about, put it in the box and leave it there.”