Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work
JULY 03, 2017
If you know me personally, you have probably heard me talk about the immense importance and value of cancer buddies. No matter how much your family and friends love and support you, there is (blessedly, for them) no way that they can truly understand what you are going through. No one can except someone else who has been through the same or a similar experience.
This single fact is the core of cancer support groups. Sitting in a room with others who truly get it is a gift beyond measure. As we often say in groups, one person can start a sentence and everyone immediately understands the whole paragraph. Talking about fatigue? Yup, we know about cancer fatigue and know that a cup of coffee or a nap is not going to help much. Talking about nausea? Yup, we know the soul-killing experience of daily nausea, the kind that eating does not really help, but that not eating makes even worse.Talking about damaged friendships? Yup, we know that we all of us surprisingly lose some friends and gain a few new ones. Talking about sex? Yup, we appreciate the sudden absence of libido in spite of great love.
If you can't join a group, there are other ways of identifying cancer buddies. Start a conversation with the person sitting next to you in the treatment room or radiation waiting area. Look online. Even ask around your neighborhood or work place. We are everywhere.
And from Cancer Net comes this essay by Lidia Schapira, MD:
Why Peer Support Is Important for People Coping With Cancer
I often ask patients where they find the strength and support to face
the hardships caused by cancer. Their responses have given me a greater
appreciation for the challenges and experiences faced during and after
cancer care and of the toll this takes on caregivers. The stories we
hear from people with cancer can help researchers understand the gaps
in care and lead health care professionals to offer assistance that
extends beyond treatments for cancer and managing symptoms.share on
twitter A colleague of mine said it best: “Listening to patients made
me more cognizant of the breadth, and amount, of lifelong support
cancer survivors need and how we, as a society, need to put greater
efforts into providing adequate support.”
People living with cancer often benefit from the practical help and advice they receive from others who have lived through similar situations. Support groups bring people together and provide a safe forum for exchanging perspectives, sharing concerns, and gaining confidence to face the future. Support groups are typically led by a trained health care professional. “Peer support” is a term we use to refer to advice and help received from fellow patients or people without medical training. Peers can be trained to offer guidance without being experts themselves. Peer support can help patients and family caregivers feel supported by a community or navigate the complex process of managing a life-altering illness such as cancer.