CaringBridge Staff | 08.18.21
If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, you don’t need to go through your journey alone. Support groups can be beneficial for cancer patients to find others going through similar health journeys and to lean on professionals for information and support.
If you don’t know where to start, we’ve got you covered. We share some helpful tips on where to find the right support group for your health journey.
What Do Cancer Support Groups Do?
Cancer support groups create a safe space for people diagnosed with any form of cancer to share their experiences, stories, and to lean on others for advice and inspiration. This process aims to help cancer patients feel less alone in their journey.
Cancer support groups also allow patients to learn how to cope with the side effects of cancer, from balancing school and work to breaking the news to family and friends.
How to Choose a Support Group
Choosing a support group is based on what you are most comfortable with. Cancer support groups range widely in sizes, length, frequency, and formats. It’s okay to visit one support group and not feel like it helped. Testing different types of support groups is an important part of finding one that is right for you.
Types of Cancer Support Groups
1. Social Media
Social media is often one of the best places to find cancer groups. Whether it’s a Facebook group or an Instagram account that creates a supportive community in the comments, social media platforms make it fairly simple to connect with those that have similar conditions to your own.
You can find social media support groups through word of mouth from friends and family, through attending in-person support groups, or simply searching for cancer support groups on your favorite social media site.
“Diagnosis, melanoma. I found a support group on Facebook. People are sadly misinformed about melanoma, how sneaky it is, they say ‘oh lucky you, it’s just skin cancer.’ They don’t see the treatments or the struggles, they don’t understand that melanoma likes to hide and rear its ugly head even years later. I get it, I didn’t understand either, but I’m so thankful for the support groups where people can vent, can share, can fight together. I was blessed that mine was caught early, but I’ve learned to be diligent thanks to others, and prayerfully hope mine won’t rear back up.”
2. Professional-led Support Groups
Professional-led support groups may offer some more specific information about your condition and may have the ability to connect you with others going through similar journeys. Sometimes it is comforting to get advice or guidance from someone who is either highly knowledgeable about your condition or has gone through the exact same thing.
There are hundreds of databases and resources available online that can help you find professional support during your cancer journey. Resources like Cancer.org and the National Cancer Institute are two great examples for connecting with others.
“Imerman Angels has been a great help to my husband with cancer. They matched him with another male of similar age who has the same rare form of sarcoma cancer as his mentor. It has been super helpful for my husband to have someone to talk to who knows exactly what he is experiencing.”
3. Specialized Support Groups
With a wide variety of cancers comes a wide variety of specialized support groups. If you have a rather specific or rare condition, sometimes finding a specialized support group can help you feel less alone.
“My (young adult) son had brain cancer. We attended a brain tumor support group. At each meeting caregivers and the brains (as my son called them) would socialize together. Then the caregivers would go to another room. Both groups were led by moderators knowledgeable in brain cancer. It was wonderful to break the group like that so we could speak freely without worrying about misunderstanding or hurt feelings.”
4. Informational Support Groups
Informational support groups often offer guidance and information specific to your cancer journey. Mentors leading these groups may have thoughtful advice specific to your own condition, or something you’re experiencing as your life changes over time. Bringing close friends or family members to these types of support groups may not only ease the nerves of trying a new group but also allow your loved ones better understand your condition.
“We attended a TBI group. This one was also wonderful. Each person said how their month had been and talked out any issues they had. There was also a set topic and information handouts. The groups were an important part of our lives for nearly 9 years. I strongly recommend finding a support group…or two.”
5. Friends & Family
Support groups don’t need to be strangers, and sometimes leaning on family or friends is enough. If you’re comfortable talking about your concerns and health journey with loved ones, know that you are not a burden. Sometimes family and friends have similar stories to share about their own health journeys which can help with the coping and learning process.
“Hospice helped my Uncle Don and having a pastor come and do a communion at your house with family members brought some closeness with the family…and being there to talk with Josh helps so he doesn’t think he’s alone”
“I have had stage IV Glioblastoma brain cancer since the end of September, 2016. Since COVID-19 hit, the support group has been limited. I’ve been grateful to still be here with my family, and my husband has been working at home!”
6. Telephone Support Groups
Some cancer networks offer telephone helplines with confidential support for those that need it. For some, it can be helpful to vent or express worries and frustrations to a complete stranger. Some telephone support lines are able to connect you with volunteers who have been through similar situations. If you’re feeling alone, know that people are there to support you just a phone call away.
7. Use CaringBridge for Support
Consider starting a CaringBridge site to share parts of your health journey with friends, family, and others who may be having similar experiences to your own. CaringBridge journals allow patients to post updates as often as needed. This process can be to record your own feelings and emotions throughout the journey, to update loved ones on your progress, or a combination of both. Sometimes just writing down what you’re feeling and sharing that writing with others helps to alleviate part of the stress. Share your CaringBridge page with people you feel supported by.
“My daughter, Terrilynn, died of colon cancer, and had 2 small children, and a hubby. She wrote everyday, in her caring book journal, until she could not, then her hubby continued. We had pictures, also. After her death we brought the book of her journey with her life. They were awesome with her life, in CaringBridge. Thank you!”
What Support Group Has Been Influential For You?
There are a wide variety of cancer support groups. What methods or organizations have created a particularly meaningful experience for you? Feel free to share your stories in the comments below.
Pictured at the beginning is Cat Thisius, whose story is part of our How We Heal Series.