Embrace a Community of Cancer Support
A sense of community is based on a common bond used to bring people together to advocate and support each other. No matter its base of individuals, the common bonds of mutual respect, understanding, appreciation, and support that make up any community can be a powerful way for people to feel accepted and validated. It is human nature to need a sense of belonging, and that sense of belonging is what connects us to the many relationships we develop. While the cancer community might not be one you chose to join, you will find no shortage of “welcome to the community” support systems, each of which can be a foundation upon which to launch your journey and/or a foundation upon which to rest.
A cancer diagnosis brings with it a million what ifs and even more questions. And there surely is not any one right or wrong, one-size-fits-all answer to any of them. As the saying goes, “take what you need” from this article, with the ultimate “take” being that you know your situation, your family, your medical professionals, your career, your finances, and most importantly yourself best. Do your homework, gather your resources, gather your strength, your courage, and resilience you didn’t even know you had until you needed it most … and do your very best to begin your journey of living with cancer. Most importantly, never forget that you are not alone.
Cancer is a family affair
There is no avoiding the reality that a cancer diagnosis affects everyone in the family. As with any family issue, everyone comes to the table with their own perspective and feelings. In the case of a medical crisis, this inevitably includes individual fears and a sense of uncertainty. Spouses may try to protect each other in different ways. Parents may want to protect their children, and this will likely look different depending upon the children’s ages. Children may want to protect their parents, too. Communication is likely to be deeply personal, and how it is managed can be deeply flawed, even with the best of intentions.
Cancer (as with other medical crises) can also impact family relationships – some even report it strengthens relationships. Everyone in the family has a new path to navigate once a diagnosis is made, and this is likely to include a rollercoaster of emotions, where every day will be a different hill, be it up- or down-hill. Allow yourself to feel all of the feels, and understand that your family will, too. Grant yourself and your loved ones grace and forgiveness every step of the way. You and your family are a team, and each player on the team has a different, important role to play. Embrace the teamwork!
Friends, Neighbors, Colleagues
Women are natural caregivers. Unfortunately, accepting care and help doesn’t always come as naturally. Whether it’s day-to-day errands/chores/job responsibilities or the ups and downs of mixed emotions, your friends, neighbors, and colleagues can and more than likely will want to help. Offer them the gift of allowing them to be there for you. And don’t hesitate to communicate openly regarding exactly what you need that help to look (or not look) like.
Faith Based / Spiritual Organizations
Studies show that spirituality can be a source of strength and a powerful coping mechanism, creating a positive mental attitude that may improve the well-being of both patients and their caregivers. Whatever your faith or spiritual beliefs and/or practices are, letting go through prayer or meditation and letting your mind and emotions take a break from the physical toll cancer and worrying about cancer might bring has been shown to have a very uplifting and positive effect.
Local Hospitals, Cancer Treatment Centers/Medical & Mental Health Professionals
When it comes to looking for trustworthy care and support, your local hospitals and cancer treatment centers can be valuable assets and excellent community partners. Staffed with medical and mental health professionals who are cancer experts and have comprehensive experience in the cancer field, you will likely find resources that take care of all of your physical and mental/emotional health needs and beyond.
When cancer invades your life, it’s hard to know how to proceed. Questions, worries, fears, uncertainties will likely be unwelcome visitors into your world. It can be a long journey with many twists and turns along the way. It begins with diagnosis but doesn’t end when treatment is over. When you’re coping with cancer, or if a loved one is affected, consider one-on-one counseling. Receiving knowledgeable, personalized support can make all the difference.
Support Groups & Open Discussions
Fear, anxiety, sadness, and anger are all common emotions felt by people dealing with cancer. Finding a way to express these emotions can be challenging. We often hide our true emotions to avoid worrying friends, family, and even our employers. Instead, these emotions can take hold in our minds and become very overwhelming. Support Groups can provide a safe place to share with others who are having similar experiences. While some women prefer to talk, others prefer to listen. Hearing from others who have been there, who are going through challenges, managing side effects, making difficult decisions, processing feelings and concerns, venting their frustrations, can help you feel connected and understood.
Education & Wellness Groups
Knowledge is power. Educational webinars and other instruction can be both comforting and empowering. Wellness takes into account your lifestyle as a whole, including your mental, emotional, and physical health. Addressing each of these needs is important as you travel your own cancer path. Exercise, nutrition, wholesome activities of all sorts are important in maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle. Together with your medical care, these will enable you to be at your best throughout your journey.
While it might be hard to grasp this concept, it is important to take a break from cancer when you can. Seek out activities that allow you to live in the moment, relax, and have fun. Enjoy the everyday things going on in your lives as well as a change of scenery. Enjoy the things that make you laugh and feel a sense of accomplishment, too!
Support Connection is a powerful example of community support
As a not-for-profit organization that provides emotional, social, and educational support to women, their families and friends affected by breast, ovarian, and gynecological cancer. Support Connection’s free and confidential programs and services include:
- One-on-One Peer Counseling – confidential, free, unlimited, and available nationwide via a toll-free support line or email. What sets Support Connection apart from the crowd is their professional Peer Counselors on staff, all of whom are cancer survivors themselves. They can talk with you about living with cancer from the perspective of someone who’s been there.
- Monthly support groups – a variety of support groups for women with breast, ovarian, or gynecological cancer and support groups for their husbands or partners are offered throughout the year. They are led by facilitators who are cancer survivors themselves.
- Open Discussions which address specific topics pertaining to living with cancer. Participants share and learn from one another.
- Education and Wellness Workshops which are focused on the needs of mind, body, and spirit, to enhance quality of life while living with cancer.
- Social Activities which provide a way to relax and enjoy spending time with other women who have also heard the words “You have cancer.”
While you are pursuing treatment and beyond, you and your family are living with cancer, so with the support of whatever your community looks like, try to live each day to the fullest as often as you are able. At Support Connection, we design our wide variety of programs and activities with one goal in mind: to be a comforting and empowering resource for you and your loved ones for as long as you need us. We’ve Been There. We Care.