Patients with cancer and those close to them often find that talking with other people who have a situation similar to theirs can be comforting. Specifically, support from other people who have had parallel experiences to theirs may improve patients’ and caregivers’ confidence in handling challenges, increase feelings of control, and give hope.1
Some people who have been diagnosed with cancer believe that support groups or counseling are not for them, perhaps because they feel uncomfortable speaking with strangers. The truth is, even if friends and family want to offer support, they probably have not had the unique experiences of patients with cancer. Connecting with people who also have cancer can give patients a chance to speak more openly and honestly. Of course, loved ones and friends will also offer support. But, just like it “takes a village” to raise a child, it takes a village to work through a cancer diagnosis and treatment.2
Some patients prefer to keep their support group (friends, family members, colleagues, and fellow cancer survivors) updated on their status as often as possible. One way to do this is to create a free and private interactive journal at CaringBridge.com. CaringBridge is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to ensure that no one goes through a health journey alone.3
The journey for people with cancer, which is already hard, can become even more stressful when there are financial concerns. Patients and their loved ones should know that there are many resources, including financial assistance programs and nonprofit organizations, that can help with the cost of treatment. The “4th Annual Patient Guide to Cancer Support Services 2020,” from CONQUER: the patient voice (available at https://conquer-magazine.com/pssguide2020), is a comprehensive resource for patients, providing information on how to contact specific drug makers or nonprofit organizations to get assistance with payment for most of today’s cancer drugs used by patients with cancer. Patients can also reach out to financial counselors at their cancer center for questions about copays or other costs related to their treatment.
For patients who are finding it difficult to cope with their cancer diagnosis, treatment, or other aspects of everyday life, seeking professional counseling may be an important step. Connecting with others, whether it is face to face, online, or via the phone, can offer real relief and hope. Members of the cancer care team, including doctors, nurses, and case managers, are often well versed about local community resources.
Most hospitals and cancer centers organize free support groups and educational sessions, typically on a biweekly or monthly basis. During these face-to-face sessions, cancer survivors often volunteer their time to share insights and offer comfort. Support services are also available through local counseling agencies and individual psychologists. Although these services are typically not free, many of these agencies accept certain types of health insurance or offer sliding-scale payment plans to help patients with cancer with their out-of-pocket expenses.
Some online support resources for patients and caregivers are:
- American Cancer Society: www.cancer.org/treatment/support-programs-and-services.html
- CancerCare: www.cancercare.org/tagged/support_groups
- National Cancer Institute Cancer Information Service: www.cancer.gov/contact
- Cancer Support Community: www.cancersupportcommunity.org/findlocation
- Patient Action: www.patientaction.com
- Patient Power: www.patientpower.info
- CaringBridge (private personal connections for patients and family caregivers): www.caringbridge.org
- Stronghold Ministry (spiritual support for patients with cancer and caregivers): www.mystronghold.org
- Cleaning for a Reason (free house cleanings for patients with cancer): www.cleaningforareason.org
- Cancer Support Community. Why do I need support? www.cancersupportcommunity.org/find-support/support-topics/why-do-need-support. Accessed February 29, 2020.
- Patient Action. When you’re diagnosed with cancer. www.patientaction.com/when-youre-diagnosed-with-cancer. Accessed February 29, 2020.
- CaringBridge. About us. www.caringbridge.org. Accessed February 29, 2020.