Cancer takes a toll on the mind, body, and soul of the patient. There is stress, uncertainty, and millions of questions in minds of those suffering from the disease along with their loved ones. People living with cancer, usually tend to benefit from the advice and suggestions of those who have lived through similar situations. This is where Support Groups step in. These groups bring people with similar fights together, allowing them to share experiences, concerns, and gain confidence and hope to face the future.
When a patient is diagnosed with Cancer, he/she needs three essential things to fight back:
- Empowerment through knowledge about the disease, cures and treatments, and everything needed to live a good life and fight the disease.
- Care and Support of the medical professionals, family, and friends to heal themselves and win the battle against cancer.
- A community who understands the stress and obstacles that they have to go through, shares experiences, and helps each other get through the journey.
As human beings, we need a sense of belonging which a community provides. It is essential to our well-being. Without a community, we will wither away.
“The people who often help us heal most deeply are those who are going through what we are experiencing” – Michael Lerner
Many people feel that they don’t need support groups. Most of them are not comfortable with the idea of opening up to strangers. They prefer to talk to their family and friends about their feelings and emotions. However, it is important to understand that when a person is diagnosed with Cancer, the family members and close friends go through different experiences of their own. Hence, it is difficult for them to be able to understand the patient no matter how hard they try. This is the time when a support group can help you talk about everything that you are feeling and understand what you are going through.
Importance of Support Groups in Cancer Care
Did you know that there are hundreds of therapies that can assist in cancer treatment? For example, you can opt for Reiki to receive positive energy especially post-surgery. Information like this, along with knowledge about other alternative treatments, research protocols, etc. can be shared in Support Groups. Further, patients can help each other in being better prepared for cancer treatment and ask the right questions to their health care providers.
Support Groups also make a person feel that he/she is not alone in the difficult journey. This helps in keeping anxiety, stress, and even depression at bay. Here are some studies that highlight the importance of Support Groups in cancer care:
- Support Groups allow the sharing of emotional support which can have a positive influence on the physical and psychological well-being of a cancer patient.
- Support Groups can improve the chances of survival after cancer.
- In senior citizens, emotional support can preserve physical and cognitive functions.
- It enhance stress-resilience and reduce problem arising from the trauma of having contracted the disease.
- The National Cancer Institute defines social support as “a network of family, friends, neighbors, and community members that is available in times of need to give psychological, physical, and financial help.”
- Social support can be categorized into three major types: emotional, instrumental and informational support.
- Strong social ties and social integration are linked to better resistance to illness, lower mortality, lower risk of recurrence, and improved survival.
- Sharing love and support is most likely beneficial across a wide range of cancers, even though research to date may focus on only a few cancer types.
- Sharing love and support, like several other lifestyle-related therapies, generally involves very little risk, may improve quality of life and possibly improve cancer outcomes, and many practitioners are comfortable recommending this for patients.
While family and friends are usually the source of love and support for most of us, many cancer patients have started reaching out to support groups, both online and offline. Some such groups in India are listed below:
- Healing Circles Global
- CancerNet.org: Support Groups
- CancerCare: Support Groups
- The Cancer Forums
- Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance: Woman to Woman
- Lung Cancer Alliance: Support Groups
- Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association, Inc.: Support Groups
- Leukemia & Lymphoma Society:
- Sarcoma Alliance: Peer-to-Peer
- Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network: In-person Support Group
- Imerman Angels
- Especially for young adults:
- Young Survival Coalition: Connect
- Lacuna Loft
- Stupid Cancer
- Smith Center for Healing and the Arts: Support groups and other resources in the Washington, DC, area
- Center for Courage and Renewal (not specific to cancer)
- Peer Spirit (not specific to cancer)
- Cancer Support Community
- CancerCare: My Cancer Circle
- American Society of Clinical Oncology: Cancer.Net
- Commonweal: Commonweal Cancer Help Program
- Cancer Awakens: Thriver’s Program
- Help Age India
- The National Society for Change For Childhood Cancer in India
- Indian Cancer Society
- Patient Support Program by Cancer foundation of India
- Pallium India
Social support resources for caregivers
- National Cancer Institute: Caring for Caregivers
- AARP: Family Caregiving/Care Guides: Helping Care for a Loved One with Cancer: I Need Help With…
- My Cancer Circle: a CancerCare webpage for caregivers of people coping with cancer.
- Senior Navigator: includes specific webpages and resources on caregiving.
- Caregiver Action Network
- Leukemia Lymphoma Society: Caregiver Support
- Living With Cancer: Circle of Support App
- American Cancer Society: If You’re About to Become a Cancer Caregiver
- Cancer Support Community: Caregivers: Remember Your Needs
- ASCO Cancer Net: Caregivers Taking Care of Themselves
- Share the Care. How to Organize a Group for Caregiving
References & More Information
- Credit: Beyond Conventional Care Therapies
- ZenOnco.io Integrative Oncology Cancer Care
- Wei D, Liu XY, Chen YY, Zhou X, Hu HP. Effectiveness of physical, psychological, social, and spiritual intervention in breast cancer survivors: an integrative review. Asia-Pacific Journal of Oncology Nursing. 2016 Jul-Sep;3(3):226-232.
- Sharing Love and Support – https://review.beyondconventionalcancertherapies.org/search-therapies/search-therapy-summaries/sharing-love-and-support
- Seeman T. Support & Social Conflict: Section One—Social Support. MacArthur Research Network on SES and Health. April 2008. Viewed January 18, 2018.
- Ozbay F, Johnson DC et al. Social support and resilience to stress: from neurobiology to clinical practice. Psychiatry (Edgmont). 2007;4(5):35-40.