One of the most important things for many people when diagnosed with breast cancer is finding a support group. While this is much easier to do with the expanded availability of social media these days as opposed to when I was initially diagnosed, it may still be rather difficult for some to find one that works for them in their own area.
“The help you need and want is always available to you with just a bit of searching because others have had the same problems that you are experiencing and have taken action to help you find the support that you are seeking when you need it.”Barbara Jacoby
Support groups seem to work well for many women as they are used to having a group of their own friends with whom they have been sharing their most intimate secrets since they were children. Therefore, it seems perfectly natural that this type of sisterhood would make a difference when sharing a common experience. Most people will find that even with all of the support and love and caring of family and friends and associates, unless you can share that with which you are dealing with someone else who is or has dealt with breast cancer, there is no way to have the same type of kinship.
This also applies to those who are caregivers. There is no way to put into words the demands upon a person, both physically and emotionally, of what is needed in order to support someone who is dealing with cancer. For many caregivers, they hardly have time to take care of themselves on a personal basis, let alone find a way to carve out time to join a support group. And for many of these people, they feel guilty even considering getting help for themselves since they are not dealing with anything that has the magnitude of cancer. After all, they are the ones who are supposed to be strong and steady and reliable. Therefore, they need to show that they don’t need anything.
But what happens once you decide that you would like to join a support group? The tough part may still be in front of you. I have spoken to quite a few women who made the decision to attend a meeting because they wanted the sharing and support but found something totally different than what they expected. What they needed was others who could share their experiences and perhaps offer ideas on how to deal with any number of problems that many other breast cancer patients had experienced.
What they got was a group of people who attended support groups who were looking for others to whom they could complain about the treatment they were receiving either medically or from their families, how they felt that they were entitled to certain things just because they were dealing with cancer and how they thought that everyone should feel sorry for them and answer their every desire just because they had cancer.
In my own experience, the woman who was facilitating the group to which I was invited was so busy socializing with everyone and directing them with regard to how they should be doing things that no one ever had the opportunity to request the support that they really needed. Therefore, they, like those who did not wish to listen to complainers, walked away and never joined another support group. Personally, if you are interested in finding an in-person support group, I suggest that you contact some of the large organizations to find out about the resources available in your area. In addition, most hospitals now have their own groups and you can always check with your primary care physician or your oncologist or other women that you know in your area for a personal referral.
However, with the advent of social media and so many more groups who are working to help other survivors, I would like to encourage everyone to look for support through new offerings available online and downloadable apps. WhatNext.com and Inspire.com have been long-time, online communities to whom I have turned for help. And now, with the download of the breastadvocateapp.com on my phone, I have available at my fingertips the information that I am seeking for patients and caregivers, etc. from what I have called “from diagnosis to forever”. So if you don’t have a physical group available that you wish to join, don’t give up. The help you need and want is always available to you with just a bit of searching because others have had the same problems that you are experiencing and have taken action to help you find the support that you are seeking when you need it.
Barbara Jacoby is an award winning blogger that has contributed her writings to multiple online publications that have touched readers worldwide.