You might have friends who email you links to local support groups. They may not know what to say to comfort or support you so they loving seek out a group of people in your situation you can feel “the same as.” Although your friends and family love you – – they know they do not know what you are feeling. So, they try to fill that gap with people who DO know… a support group.
Have you called the XXX Support Group, at the church, cancer center, Gilda’s Club, local hospital or wherever. This may become a question you commonly begin to hear. Some of you will run to these groups and love them. They are a wonderful resource for many. Others will be reserved in your approach to them.
When my mom was sick – I dragged her to a support group at the hospital. We meet very nice people in the group. On the way home I could tell my mom did not enjoy it – – I offered to take her back I thought it was important but we never did go.
When I got diagnosed I sought out a support group. I met very nice people. I listened to their stories and I shared mine. It felt nice and comfortable to be understood – but I never went back after the first night. I was scared. I was afraid of caring about them. I was afraid the people in group would get well and what if I didn’t? I was afraid of feeling jealous and angry. I was also so afraid of connecting and caring about someone and then me getting well and them getting sicker. I was afraid of the pain of losing someone.
So instead – – I plopped myself into the chemo chair my very first day of cancer treatment and strangely said to the woman next to me.
“This is my first time. Will you be my friend?”
I had no idea what I really meant. Did I mean for the next few hours – or forever? I had not planned this at all. What was I doing?
The woman was so nice. She energetically said of course. She inched her body toward the right side of the large pink lazy boy and leaned toward me.
“It’s not such a big thing. I’ve had cancer before so I am a veteran. This is not so bad.”
We introduced ourselves, the hours went by and she became my friend and support person. We would try to schedule our chemo sessions together – so they would be fun.
Her name – Sharon Goldberg. She was my angel. Anything I felt – she had felt before. Anger, Frustration, Ugly, Upset. I used to bitch to her about the stupid comments people would make to me at work. She would just nod her head, she had lived through it all before.
She was my support – she was always there for me on the phone. For me, having Sharon and the rest of my non- cancer family and friends worked out beautifully. They were my support group.
Some of you will find tremendous support in non traditional settings like online. One of my clients recently told me about a website called LivingConversations.com. It is a wonderful site of video taped interviews with breast cancer survivors. It is supportive, calming and reassuring to see women on “the other side” say the things you are feeling and answering the questions you have floating around your head. Check it out! This might be your support group or your support group at 3AM when you can’t rest your brain enough to sleep.
Support comes in many different ways. If a traditional support group is not for you – don’t feel bad or guilty about that. You might decide to call a staffed 800# of cancer survivors when you want to talk OR volunteer there when you want to listen. You might talk with someone at chemo, or someone who had cancer 2 years ago with their new hair their crowing glory. Cancer like any new experience will bring you to meet new people – who may be just the support you need.