Finding your People
No one should have to go through cancer or its aftermath alone. And often, those people whom we depend upon for all other things in life, turn out not to be the very best companions for this experience. Yes, our family and friends love us and want very much to be supportive and helpful. Too often, however, they just can't get what you are going through. For that perfect understanding, you need other cancer people.
Many of you know that I am a huge fan of support groups for just that reason. Over the decades, I have watched so many women come, often reluctantly and with a lot of understandable anxiety, to a group for the first time--and then blossom. It is the one place where you can be totally honest, no censoring needed, and everyone can fully appreciate what you are saying. I like to describe it by saying that, in a good group, participants could finish each other's sentences.
Not everyone wants a formal group experience. There are other ways to find cancer buddies, including talking to people in the waiting room or sitting in the next chair in the infusion area. Sadly, it is pretty certain that your friends and neighbors know others who have been through this, and they can likely guide you to others in your own community.
This is a lovely essay from Cure Today about this need and process:
Creating My Cancer Posse
When diagnosed, I ate up books by inspirational survivors who shared their tips and tricks for making it through the cancer maze. One of my favorite cancer surthrivers is Kris Carr, who starred in the documentary "Crazy Sexy Cancer" and went on to write several books on healthy living, such as "Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips." I flipped it open and agreed with every sentence, up to the part where she suggested I create a “Cancer Posse” consisting of other survivors like myself. Immediately the record player in my head scratched and I said, “No thanks, not for me.”
Before cancer, I considered myself pretty tough. I ran a marathon, placed first in a triathlon and hiked across a country carrying everything on my back. I’ve always enjoyed my solitude and these achievements were completed alone and by choice. So, when several people suggested I join a support group, it sounded like self torture. Plus, my perception of cancer survivors was that they were thin, sad, sick, bald, weak people and I cringed at the thought of sitting in a church basement, in a circle of tears asking, “Why me,” while others rubbed my back. Those are not my people, I thought.
(Keep reading - I’m going to eat my words.)
However, I was thirsty for information and found an online group of other pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor survivors on Inspire.com. Without even realizing, I had joined a support group. After a month of participating in online discussions, the members encouraged me to seek a specialist. Their insistence and physician recommendations resulted in a consultation with one of the top neuroendocrine cancer doctors in the country, who provided me with a good game plan. I thought of support groups as outlets for emotions, but the fact that they could be a place to exchange valuable information had never occurred to
me. In my case, I found this online group to be more knowledgeable about my disease than most doctors.