The following post is written by Robin Maggio, oncology social worker with Woman’s Hospital.
If you’re facing a cancer diagnosis, connecting with others who’ve been through cancer already can be a source of comfort and support. But what is the best way for women to find support to help them cope with their diagnosis?
That answer can be as unique as the person fighting cancer herself. Some women find comfort in talking to large groups. Others find it with one-on-one conversations with close personal friends and family, while others might be more comfortable talking to a stranger or a health professional.
What you need to remember is that there is no wrong way to find support.
Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge hosts support group meetings throughout the month for different forms of cancer and cancer treatment. The support groups include group discussion and physical activity, depending on the patient’s preference. These support group meetings are a great way of getting out, socializing with other people, sharing the emotions and experiences of your cancer battle and finding strength through the help of others.
But patients can also get support in less formal areas. I hear a lot of stories about women finding support through striking up a conversation with a total stranger while they’re out running errands.
For example, while shopping at Walmart, a patient who lost her hair due to cancer treatment and wore a turban to cover her head was approached by another woman who had also battled cancer. The patient told me they talked for a while and exchanged stories, and she found support and felt better because of that exchange.
That informal, on-the-spot conversation is a way to get support. Sometimes the support comes through in unusual ways or ways you don’t expect, and getting out in the community allows you to receive that spontaneous support.
For those not comfortable communicating in person, the Internet has a wide array of online support groups and cancer-related blogs patients can write on to express themselves. The American Cancer Society’s website has links to many online communities and support groups. Staying connected with others is important during treatment, and using the Internet is an easy and effective way to do that for people who cannot or do not want to physically attend support groups.
Woman’s Hospital also hosts several educational and supportive meetings throughout the year that are specific to women who have cancer.
All support groups are not the same, and there is no one “right” support group for everyone. You may try more than one group before you find the setting that is right for you. Just remember that the best support group is the one that works for you.