When first diagnosed people are often reluctant to join a Support Group, being under the impression that they will be expected to share raw emotions and fears that they are still coming to terms with.
A diagnosis of cancer is a shock to the system that the person has to come to grips with, along with the changes to home, family and work life that it also brings.
Patients are often under the impression that the emotions they are experiencing are not normal. They repress them, deny them and do not share them with their family, friends and colleagues in an open and honest way. Unfortunately this can lead to less emotional support for the patient, as any potential supporters (we like to call them buddies) are under the false impression that the patient is coping.
My personal research indicates that most people join a support group for a number of different reasons:
• To meet others in similar circumstances
• To develop new relationships/friendships
• To obtain coping skills
• To obtain information on cancer and new treatments
• To experience an environment conducive for mutual problem-solving
• To win back their sense of belonging
• To access talks that focus on personal, physical and emotional enrichment
• For encouragement.
What to look for in a Support Group
Support groups should make the patient and their buddies feel welcome. Joining a support group is about becoming part of an empathetic group of people who understand the deep, and often unspoken emotions of the patient (and their buddies) during this difficult journey.
There should be no obligation placed upon individuals to verbally participate – their presence in the group should be all that is needed.
The support group should add perspective and provide a platform for gaining coping skills and information.
It is all about making a connection and feeling comfortable with the other members of the group. There is nothing wrong with trying out a number of support groups until you find the one that suits you and your buddies – in fact – some people belong to more than one support group.
Support groups should regularly ask members for new ideas and topics of interest, for after all, it exists for their benefit.
The camaraderie and encouragement that support groups offer can often be the difference between coping with your diagnosis and not coping. Do your soul a favour and try out one of the many support groups listed at the back of this magazine – you may just enjoy it!!
Written by Magda Rall