As an Oncology Social Worker, I meet with patients to provide them with support and resources. On my first visit, I often suggest that patients try out one of the many support groups offered at their treatment center or in the community.
This suggestion is met with a variety of responses that range from excitement to absolute fear. As a facilitator of two support groups, I am admittedly a strong advocate. Support groups serve as a method to cope and a connection to others in similar situations. Research from The American Cancer Society has proven the following about support groups:
- Support groups can enhance the quality of life for people with cancer by providing information and support to help overcome feelings of aloneness and helplessness
- Support groups help reduce tension, anxiety, fatigue, and confusion
- There is a strong link between group support and a greater tolerance of cancer treatment and treatment compliance
- People with cancer are better able to deal with their disease when supported by others
Still not convinced a support group is a good fit for your patients or that it will fit into their busy schedules? Fortunately, support groups come in all shapes and sizes. They are offered face-to-face, online, or over the phone. Support groups can be facilitated by a professional or a cancer survivor. They may be disease, age, or gender specific. Groups can meet weekly, monthly, or be time limited. With all of these options, there truly is a support group for everyone!
If you meet a patient who is interested in attending a support group, refer him or her to the oncology social worker at your workplace. Most cancer centers have oncology social workers dedicated to the patientís psychosocial needs. The social worker will be able to direct your patient to local support groups to meet his or her needs. I would also recommend the following websites:
Mr. Fred Rogers, author of Lifeís Journeys According to Mister Rogers: Things to Remember along the Way, truly words it best:
Anything thatís human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that weíre not alone.