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More on Support Groups

Posted 12/21/2015

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  This is a companion piece to last Friday's entry re my post breast cancer treatment support group. If you missed it, it includes a lovely poem written by a longtime member. Today I saw an article on WebMD about support groups, and it seems a good sequel.

  This morning, like most Monday mornings, my group for women with Stage IV cancer met. As always, it was lively and wonderful, and one woman wondered aloud: "Why isn't the room full? Why aren't women beating down the door to be with us?" A good question, and one that does not really have a good answer. Certainly there are always logistical and practical issues: the time and day of the meeting, having to drive to BIDMC and pay to park here. But I suspect the more common reason has to do with fear. It is surely true that you may hear something in a support group that is frightening. If, however, there is an experienced facilitator present, it is her job to relieve that anxiety and make sure that no one leaves feeling worse than she did when she came. It is also true that you are certain to hear many wonderfully helpful things and to feel connected, less isolated than you did before attending.

  When people ask me about how to find or assess a group, here is my response of things to consider:

1. Who comes to the group? Is it cancer patients who are recently diagnosed or those who are done with treatment or those with advanced cancer? Or is it all of the above?

2. Is there an experienced group facilitator? If the answer is not yes, stay away.

And how to do you find a group: ask your doctor or nurse or social worker in the cancer center where you are treated. ACS also has lists of local groups, so you can call the nearest office to inquire.

And here is the start of the article and a link to read more:

Is a Support Group Right for You?
By Wendy Baer, MD

When David was diagnosed with colon cancer a friend suggested he go to a support group to help him
cope with the diagnosis. David thought, “I am not a group person. I don’t want to sit around and listen to
other people’s problems!”
During the first chemotherapy session a nurse suggested he try a support group to talk about fatigue
during chemotherapy. David thought, “I just want to get this over with. I do not want to talk about it
While in the hospital for his colon surgery, the surgeon encouraged David to attend a support group for
people with ostomy bags. This time, David thought, “Okay, fine. I will give the support group try. Maybe
then people will stop telling me to go!”
Why are support groups so often recommended to people with cancer? Mainly because there’s value in
talking to others who have “been there, done that.” A cancer diagnosis puts you on a long, difficult
journey. When you go to a support group, you get a chance to talk to people who know about the journey,
and may be able to help you along the way. And as you gain a better understanding of the journey, you
may feel more in control and more hopeful.


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