Support Groups Are ‘So Good’ For Survivors Who Don’t Want to Burden Family With Fear of Cancer Recurrence

Institution Partners | Cancer Centers | <b>Allegheny Health Network</b>

Cancer survivors may often struggle with talking about their fear of recurrence with loved ones, which is why one expert recommends they seek solace in support groups.

Fear of recurrence can range from being “profound” to less intense, where cancer survivors largely move on with their lives, but find themselves being triggered at certain times, explained Nicole Kulasa, a survivorship nurse navigator at Allegheny Health Network Cancer Institute in Pittsburgh.

Regardless of how severe fear of recurrence may be, Kulasa said that survivors may oftentimes struggle to discuss these anxieties with family members, who may want to put the cancer experience behind them. This is where support groups with other individuals feeling the same way can be beneficial.

“That's why our support groups are so good, because these survivors can get together and they can have that commonality that, ‘I'm going through this too, and I feel like I'm in a safe spot that I can express that without feeling like I might be making someone nervous or, I'm making them fearful.’ So (survivors) have that that connects them,” Kulasa said in an interview with CURE®.

Transcription

Sometimes (fear of recurrence) can be pretty profound, that it almost puts (survivors) in a daily panic attack or freezes them from moving on. (There’s) that (feeling of), “Yes, I got better” or “yes, treatment is over, but what if it comes back?” (They are) worrying about the fear of the unknown instead of focusing on the present day what's going on. (Some survivors are) constantly fearing about what can come in the future. So that could be the extreme.

(For) other (survivors), some people will say, “I've carried on with my life, but you know, sometimes that that fear will trigger; it will come up at some point.” It can be very scary for patients.

And sometimes it's hard for them to express themselves, like if they talk to their family members who may be doing better, (they may think) “We got through cancer treatment together, it's over (and we’re) looking forward to a happy, healthy future.” Bringing that up and that fear to their loved ones can sometimes feel like a reminder (of cancer) or scare their loved ones about what could happen.

So, that's why our support groups are so good, because these survivors can get together and they can have that commonality that, “I'm going through this too, and I feel like I'm in a safe spot that I can express that without feeling like I might be making someone nervous or I'm making them fearful.” So (survivors) have that that connects them.

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