The Power of a Cancer Support Group

Bob Riter is the retired Executive Director of the Cancer Resource Center. His articles about living with cancer appeared regularly in the Ithaca Journal and on OncoLink. He can be reached at bobriter@gmail.com.

A collection of Bob’s columns, When Your Life is Touched by Cancer: Practical Advice and Insights for Patients, Professionals, and Those Who Care, is available in bookstores nationwide and through online retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. All royalties from the sale of the book come to the Cancer Resource Center.

People with cancer share differently within a cancer support group as compared to how they share with their family and friends.

One woman recently told me that when she shares her cancer diagnosis with friends, the friends often say something like, “You’re going to be ok, right?”

She went on to say, “In my support group, no one would ask that.”

Her friends’ questions are driven by fear. They want to be reassured that everything will be fine.

This puts an unfair burden on the person with cancer. Should you be honest, or should you be reassuring to relieve their discomfort?

Most of us develop responses along the lines of, “I’m taking it one day at a time and I’m hoping for the best.”

In a support group, you’re more apt to hear, “I’m waiting for the results on my next scan. Keep your fingers crossed.” Others in the group offer support, but they aren’t looking to be reassured.

Groups are also good for raising questions that are difficult to discuss with family members.

Just recently, one group discussed the question, “How will you know when enough is enough?”

When you’re living with advanced cancer, you generally remain on treatment for the rest of your life. Each treatment extends your life, but there are side effects of the treatment and the cancer itself can affect your quality of life.

At some point, many people wonder if they should continue with aggressive treatment.

This can be hard to discuss with family members because it affects them so much. It’s easier to raise the question with a supportive group of people who aren’t so personally invested in what you decide.

I’ve found that groups often serve as “practice runs.” That is, people can try out their thoughts before they discuss them with their loved ones and/or their physicians. The group is a safe and non-judgmental place to see how things sound when you first say them out loud.

Every support group is different, but they all provide a sense of community and a sense of understanding.


Reprinted with permission of the Ithaca Journal.

Click here for all of Bob’s columns

Share:

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on pinterest
Pinterest
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
On Key

Related Posts

LIGHTS – CAMERA – ACTION!!

CRC wants to make you famous! We are looking for anyone who has been diagnosed with any kind of cancer for a portrait project “Why we are here!” There is

Collaboration with Hospicare

Hospicare & Palliative Care Services and the Cancer Resource Center  both share a common goal to be accessible to diverse populations throughout our community. CRC supports people living with and

New Zoom group!

Virtually Together is the name of our newest group. It will meet by Zoom and is open to everyone – cancer patients, survivors, loved ones, all genders, and those affected