If you’ve received a breast cancer diagnosis, you may want to familiarize yourself with the many support groups available to you. While you may receive support from friends and family, it could also be helpful to connect with others who have gone through or are going through similar experiences with breast cancer.
These groups provide opportunities to share information, resources, hopes, and fears. Groups may meet in person, by telephone, or online.
Here are six ways a support group can help you as you begin to navigate life after a breast cancer diagnosis.
1. They provide camaraderie and fellowship
You may initially join a support group because you want to be around others who are going through the same thing. But you may find yourself connecting on a deeper level by sharing experiences and concerns without fear of judgment or misunderstanding.
Your fellow group members may be at different points in their recovery process, but simply hearing about their trials and triumphs can give you information on how to deal with your own ups and downs. Likewise, sharing your personal story may also help someone else.
2. They can reduce your isolation
Undergoing cancer treatment can create a wall between you and even the most caring and considerate friends and family. This may simply be because they find it difficult to understand the range and intensity of your emotions.
But bouts of depression and anxiety are difficult to fight alone. The therapeutic nature of a support group can help you stay on the path to recovery.
3. They improve your coping skills and help you adjust
If you’re overwhelmed and stressed out about your situation, seek advice from members who know exactly how that feels. Support groups are a great place to learn coping skills related to exercise, diet, and meditation that to can help you manage the stress of an illness.
Members often have valuable insight on concerns that may seem more mundane, like navigating the maze of doctor visits, hospital procedures, and insurance red tape. They can also share advice on treatment options and additional resources to find more information. These tips can ease the difficulty of adjusting to life after a breast cancer diagnosis.
4. They allow you to speak honestly
Some support group meetings may be organized as open forums that encourage discussion about how you’re feeling and how you’re managing your breast cancer on a day-to-day basis. The group dynamic helps you talk more openly about your emotions, so there’s no need to keep a stiff upper lip or pretend you’re not afraid or angry. Chances are everyone there has been in a similar place.
5. They improve your quality of life
Participating in a support group can improve your communication with your healthcare provider and family members. This can help you better manage your treatment protocol.
The social interaction can lift your spirits, improve your outlook, and give you something to look forward to, all of which can improve your emotional health and quality of life.
6. They’re a resource for advice and information
Whether it’s about treatment options, new medications, additional resources, or a great day spa where you can be pampered, a support group is an excellent place to find vital information to aid your recovery.
If you’re thinking about joining a group, here are some questions to consider to help you select one that meets your needs:
- Do you want to learn about treatment options, receive encouragement, or discuss personal and family issues you may be having?
- Would you prefer to interact with those dealing with any type of cancer, or metastatic breast cancer patients only?
- Would you prefer to attend meetings in person or online? Would an online support group be more convenient for your schedule?
- Do you want a meeting led by a professional or a survivor? Professionals are trained to lead groups and help members with information and resources. Survivors bring personal experience, but may lack the support group skill training necessary to handle difficult group situations.
How to find a support group
You can begin by going online and checking out the American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen Foundation, and the National Breast Cancer Foundation. These websites provide extensive lists of support groups all across the country. Facebook also has a wide variety of breast cancer support groups. Take a moment to find the one that seems right for you.
Your doctor, hospital, or treatment provider may also be able to provide you with a list of support groups in your area.
It’s normal to feel scared, overwhelmed, and isolated after a breast cancer diagnosis. But there are ways you can overcome those emotions. Talking to others who know what you’re going through — because they’ve been there — can make all the difference.