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Valentine's Day and Support

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Although many people believe Valentine's Day has become too commercial or only commercial. I have tried to make it another day to think about friends and family that I love and who support me. And for individuals with cancer I am sure this may be even more true. Thus, I have been thinking this year about the "SUPPORT" part. We all need positive support in our lives. The type and people who support us may vary throughout the years or throughout your cancer journey, but you still need support.

Consequently, today I thought I might mention "support groups". There are many myths and misconceptions about support groups in general (whether for cancer or not). And I do agree they may not be for everyone. But, I do think if individuals do a little research they may find a particular type of support group may be helpful and different than what they think the "stereotyped support group" might be. I have started and run many types of support groups.

The best part about support groups is they can be designed to meet the groups' needs. Your first visit may be a bit daunting or uncomfortable. Try going, at least, a second time to make certain that a particular group is a good fit.

There are several types of support groups that fulfill the needs of different individuals. Below is a list, created by the American Cancer Society, of the different types of support groups that one can join:
  • Type of Cancer: for example, breast cancer vs. prostate cancer
  • Stage of cancer experience: for example, new diagnosis vs. recurrent cancer
  • Treatment type: for example, bone marrow transplantation vs. chemotherapy
  • Open membership: enrollment is not necessary, and one can come and go as they please
  • Closed membership: enrollment is necessary and members are expected to attend each session
  • Therapy group: group therapy moderated by a psychologist
  • Peer support group: this group provides a comfort zone where individuals can share their experiences with one another
  • Educational group: lecture sessions conducted by experts that center around medical information
  • Coping skill group: members share the skills they've used when coping with different stagees of their cancer treatment
  • Telephone support groups: group members meet through the telephone
  • Support groups for children: groups for children diagnosed with cancer or groups for children whose family members are diagnosed with cancer

For more detailed information concerning the types of support groups one can attend, go to this page at the American Cancer Society website: Support Groups: General Information

Recommendations:
I have started and lead many groups. I often suggest to individuals with cancer (and/or family and friends) to at least try a support group or 2. Some individuals feeltheyy do not need it as they have a large family support network (20-50 people), or a large church network. I have seen all of the above types work well. I also like what I would call a combination support group. Where there is some peer support, but also some time for education or coping tips by a professional. This can be combined in each meeting or rotate so 1 month is education and then next is peer support. This can often be helpful.

Think about these options and respond with your thoughts and ideas and I will write more about support groups in the next few days.

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About the Author


BA, MPH

Steve shares what he learned from his personal experience with cancer.

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