3 Ways to Build a Cancer Support Network
When first diagnosed, patients with cancer often feel both isolated and overwhelmed. A way to combat this sense of aloneness is to build a strong support network. “My support network was invaluable,” said Jennifer Felser Cullen, a breast cancer survivor from Florida who counts family, friends, and other patients with cancer in her support network. “They helped me every step of the way.”
Your support network can do research, offer experienced advice, be a chemotherapy appointment buddy, or help with tasks that range from transportation to grocery shopping. They can also share experiences about treatments and possible side effects, offer advice on finances, and provide a safe haven when you need to vent.
The members of your support network can be people you know, as well as perfect strangers. Social media, including Facebook and Twitter, have made it easy for patients with cancer to gain instant access to broad networks of other patients with cancer and cancer survivors.
“I have a ton of new friends I met online in support groups,” added Cullen. “It was great to hear their stories and to reach out for advice from people who were going through exactly what I was going through.”
Your support network can also include vendors who you pay to provide tasks that range from housecleaning to transportation. Many grocery stores, for example, now offer home delivery service.
Cancer support groups can be local and meet in person, or be more wide-ranging and meet online.
Here are 3 ways to start building your support network:
Find cancer support groups
Cancer support groups can be found in your local community or online. You can also ask your healthcare professional for recommendations for support groups that can offer a safe, confidential space to talk about your feelings, learn about treatments, get referrals, find solutions, find financial assistance, and offer advice.
Local and online cancer support groups
Start with support group sections on American Cancer Society, Cancer Support Community and CancerCare to find local programs and online groups for patients and loved ones. The Advocacy Connector helps both patients and caregivers find and connect to relevant advocacy groups.
Social media groups
Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit all have extensive communities for cancer support groups. Go to the sites and use the search box function to search for terms that include: "cancer support groups," "cancer support communities," "breast cancer support group," and "prostate cancer groups." One of these groups may be right for you.
Outsource your to-dos
When you’re coping with the possible side effects of treatment, it can be a challenge to muster the energy to do simple daily tasks. Instead of tackling them all yourself, consider spending what you can afford to pay someone else to take over some tasks. For example, sign up for a grocery or meal delivery services, hire a housecleaner, use a wash-and-fold laundry, or choose a dry cleaner that offers delivery. Support groups can also connect you with taxi and car services that specialize in taking patients with cancer to and from treatment or doctors' appointments.
Here are some service providers to consider:
Meal and grocery services
- Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, and Sunbasket, all deliver meal prep kits. Check with your healthcare team for any dietary considerations before subscribing
- For groceries, try your local supermarket chain or Peapod, AmazonFresh, or Instacart
Housekeeping and related chores
- Angie’s List, Handy, and TaskRabbit are all convenient sources for services like house cleaning, furniture assembly, yard work, general handyman tasks and more
- The Road To Recovery program provides transportation to and from treatment for people with cancer who do not have a ride or are unable to drive themselves
- Your insurance company may be able to refer you to preferred transportation vendors
- Uber and Lyft provide easier ways to get around town, and navigation and payment are both handled through a smartphone app
Ask for help
When family and friends or a group from church asks what they can do, give them a task. Let them run errands, stock your freezer, provide transport, do research, or simply offer friendship and a shoulder to lean on. Many patients with cancer keep their networks informed of their treatment and progress through email newsletters or through private social media groups.
Manage your outreach to support groups
- My Life Line lets you post requests for help and invites family and friends to follow your updates and progress
- Doodle is a tool that simplifies group scheduling.
- Facebook lets you set up invitation-only groups
When you are standing up to cancer, it's vital that you have a support network of people who understand what you're going through, provide information and advice, and lend a helping hand. Embarking on this journey with a group of people beside you will give you the knowledge, insight, and strength to move forward each day.
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