Finding Support in Your Tribe

“Cancer is a journey, but you walk the road alone. There are many places to stop along the way and get nourishment – you just have to be willing to take it.”

 – Emily Hollenberg, cancer survivor

Sunday, June 7th,  marks the 33rd annual National Cancer Survivors’ Day.  On this day people from around the world join together to raise awareness around the challenges of cancer survivorship, celebrate those living with a cancer diagnosis, and gather support and lend outreach to those impacted by cancer. 

In 2020, alone, roughly 1.8 million people will be diagnosed with cancer in the United States.   Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be devastating.  Individuals and their families may feel a wide range of emotions including: shock, anger, fear, sadness, anxiety, guilt and hopelessness.   In addition to feeling emotional distress, many cancer patients are also managing physical symptoms, including pain and fatigue, from the cancer itself and its’ subsequent treatment.  Sadly, for many, a cancer diagnosis can be a lonely and isolating experience, especially if the diagnosis was sudden and the individual or family has little experience navigating cancer.  The good news is that emotional support is readily available and no one should walk the path of a cancer diagnosis alone.

Living With Cancer Shouldn’t Be Lonely

Cancer patients and their loved ones share that being diagnosed with cancer feels like “being forced into a club that no one wants to join.”  People report that being diagnosed with cancer seemingly changes their life, as they knew it, overnight.  No doubt, a cancer diagnosis will have major impacts on a person’s life and daily routine and even plans and hopes for the future.  But knowing what to expect, having an action plan on how to proceed, and having a strong system of support can help make this difficult time much more manageable.  

A cancer diagnosis brings with it a wave of uncertainty, but one common thread that can positively impact those living with cancer is the need for an excellent and well connected support system.  Many individuals will certainly receive the loving support from friends and family during a cancer diagnosis, but will often join a support group to relieve some of the burden from their care givers and connect with others with a shared, common experience.  Fortunately, there are so many different types of cancer support groups out there, that are welcoming and easy to find by tapping into your resources. 

Finding Your Tribe

Studies show that those living with cancer can benefit from joining support groups and receiving the advice from others who are living or who have lived through similar situations. Some support groups can be generalized, focusing on a wide-range of cancer topics.  While other groups may be more specific, for example a group made up solely of young women living with breast cancer or men navigating the challenges of a lung cancer diagnosis.  Groups can meet in person or online and many are led by therapists who specialize in the field of psycho-oncology, (a field which focuses on the psychological and behavioral components of coping with a cancer diagnosis).  The options are plenty and even if the first group you join doesn’t feel like the perfect fit, try a few out and see which one makes sense for you and feels like a perfect fit. 

How Group Support Can Help After a Cancer Diagnosis 

Emotional support groups can be a powerful venue for healing and personal growth. Support groups can benefit patients in so many different ways, improving quality of life along the way.  At 7Chairs, our professionally facilitated online support groups have benefited countless numbers of cancer survivors. Our group members, commonly report that our cancer specific groups have helped them gain:

  • Increased Coping Skills: Sharing your feelings with others can be cathartic.  Listening and learning from others going through a shared experience can lend insight to a variety of different coping skills, (mediation, exercise, nutrition and how to best manage difficult emotions)  that might be beneficial for you.
  • Information Sharing: Sharing of resources, practical information and best practices that have helped others successfully navigate their journey will relieve much of the weight from the shoulders of those living with cancer. Information sharing can help newly diagnosed patients cope with the side effects of treatment, learn about new treatments and others strategies for dealing with the physical and emotional burdens of a cancer diagnosis.
  • Hope For Today and the Future:  Simply put, joining an emotional support group can help you to feel better.  Listening and learning about others’ stories of survival and resilience can instill a hopeful outlook for the future.  Lastly, finding your tribe, and connecting with others with a shared experience will help you to not feel alone in your diagnosis and fight!  

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