Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Cancer Support Networks Promote Recovery Both Online and In Person

This blog post was contributed by one of our readers,  David Haas.

While there are a number of factors that tend to be present in those that survive cancer, one of the most significant and powerful contributors is the presence of a loving support network. The genuine care, concern and understanding of other people has a healing effect that is undeniable. The energy of such a network is crucial at all phases of the healing and recovery process.

One powerful and beneficial way for cancer patients to receive support is through cancer survivor networks and programs both online and in person. A recent article on the Mayo Clinic website stated, "A support group can help you cope better and feel less isolated as you make connections with others facing similar challenges."

Cancer survivor networks and programs can take many forms. Often it is a weekly or bi-weekly meeting in a public location such as a church or hospital, but meetings can also take place more informally in peoples' homes. At these meetings, participants usually sit in a circle and share details about their illness, treatment and steps to recovery. Meetings can feature a guest speaker or participants might watch an inspiring movie. They share what is working for them and what isn't. They celebrate their successes and milestones as well as receive support when there are setbacks.  Often times cancer support groups are even open to friends and family of participants as well.

One of the most well-known and longstanding support networks is Gilda's Club, inspired by the late Gilda Radner. Based on her experiences with breast cancer, Gilda adopted the mindset, "no one should face cancer alone." Gilda's husband Gene Wilder and friends Joel Siegel and Mandy Patinkin teamed up with the West Coast Wellness Community to help start what would eventually become a worldwide network of cancer support groups. To this day, Gilda's Club remains true to Gilda's ideal that no one should have to face cancer alone.

Gilda's Club has been the inspiration for many other formal and informal cancer support groups. From cancers with high survival rates such as skin cancer and breast cancer to the more rare cancers like mesothelioma.  These terminal illnesses are where cancer support groups can really be helpful, because of the low mesothelioma life expectancy it is hard to cope with the deadliness of this disease. These groups make it easier. The Internet can also be a valuable resource, allowing cancer patients to connect with others between meetings via forums and message boards to share resources and support. Online or in person, cancer support networks are invaluable in every phase of the recovery process.

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