Cancer survivor support groups address the unique needs of survivors
The transition from cancer patient to cancer survivor is sometimes overlooked as a continuing phase of the treatment process. Just because active treatment may have ended, that doesn’t mean life goes back to normal. You have to find a new normal.
With almost 14 million cancer survivors in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control, there’s a big need to make sure that everyone is cared for beyond treatment. Lidia Schapira, MD, in an interview with Cancer.Net, discussed the concerns many survivors have and said that support groups are a good resource from which to receive guidance. Here’s how cancer survivor support groups might be able to help you and your loved ones.
Survivor support groups
You’ve probably received a survivorship care plan that details your diagnosis, treatment and follow-up care expectations. However, the plan doesn’t cover the emotional challenges you face. There’s relief, but also uncertainty of the future.
Continuing (or starting) to visit a support group for cancer survivors can help you manage the transition. Just as you are expected to move on with your life, family and friends who provided help and caregiving during your treatment are also getting back to their routines. You may see them less or feel some loss by not having the constant visits.
Support groups connect you with others who have been through or are going through the same things. They understand your experience, your fear of the cancer coming back, your struggle with body image, along with the relief and the new lease on life. It’s best to find a group of people you feel comfortable around. You may have questions about sex or want recommendations on the best post-mastectomy bra. These things can be hard to talk about with people who haven’t been through a similar experience, but they have a big effect on your self-esteem and overall well-being.
You can find groups online or in person, although meeting face-to-face may provide you better support. Making friends with other survivors can help you find exercise partners or lunch buddies where you help each other continue a healthy lifestyle in accordance with your care plan.
Additionally, people who have dealt with cancer can experience post-traumatic stress (PTS), and the symptoms can come on early or wait a year or two after treatment has ended. The National Cancer Institute recommends support groups to help recognize PTS and to get help faster.
June 5 is National Cancer Survivors Day, a time to celebrate that life goes on after cancer and to promote awareness of survivorship concerns. Events go on around the country, or you can host your own party at home.
The Cancer Survivors Network is an online forum where you can share your story and connect with others. Starting online is can be a big help if you feel a little uncomfortable jumping into a support group or if there are limited groups available in your area.
Even when you feel great, occasionally attending a support group can help remind you that other people have gone through similar experiences, that other people have fatigue or continued pain or other long-term effects. It’s normal to feel grateful for life as a cancer survivor but still have fear that the cancer will return. Reach out and share your story with others as well. You never know who you might help.
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