“Online support groups provide a chance to share information, give and receive social support and gain a sense of empowerment,” states the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation on its website. Family and friends are crucial for support, but finding emotional support from those who are going through what you are, and finding medical information from professionals who may monitor support groups can be very comforting and can help you cope.
It should be noted that not everyone is interested in or ready for support groups. Perhaps you don’t feel ready to express your inner feelings or are just not comfortable in such a setting. Everyone reaches a point in their recovery at their own pace when they feel they can participate if they want. Also, if you don’t like the group that you join, you can always quit and find another. There are plenty of them. Here are five that are recommended:
- Breast Cancer.org: This site claims 144,775 members in 73 forums discussing 114,615 topics. The boards are very active. There are loads of topics to ask questions about and opportunities to talk to other posters. Some of the many topics are: “Connecting with Others Who Have A Similar Diagnosis,” “Just Diagnosed,” “Tests, Treatments and Side Effects,” “Day to Day Matters,” “Recovery, Renewal and Hope,” and “Support and Community Connections.” There is also a group for men with breast cancer.
- Young Survival Coalition Forums: Here is a community that specializes in young breast cancer patients and survivors. Their general boards have 30,227 topics. Categories include a group called “Under 30.” Others are “Support for Friends and Family,” “Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Topics,” and groups for Latinas, Asians, and those of Black/African descent. There are groups for dating and parenting issues.
- Cancer Support Community: Online groups are led by licensed mental health professionals. There are discussion boards and you can create your own web page to keep in touch with family and friends. Real-time groups meet once a week for 90 minutes and are run by trained moderators who specialize in the particular area for which you are seeking support. There are also groups for caregivers and those in bereavement. You can get support, and give it to others.
- What Next.com: What Next is a large community connected to the American Cancer Society (ACS). You can read others’ experiences, share your own and ask and answer questions. For example, there is a “treatment experiences” discussion group. Members discuss lumpectomy (1279 participants), mastectomy (759), breast reconstruction (297) and double mastectomy (857). Other groups discuss drugs, chemo, radiation therapy (internal and external), and hormone therapy. You can also watch members talk about their experiences on videos.
- Cancer Support Network: Another group connected to the ACS, this group is for peer support. There are discussion boards and chat rooms on a wide array of subjects. It’s a community to share experiences, interests and feelings. It is not the place to go for medical information and facts. You should seek that from the ACS or your healthcare provider. You can create your own support group with other members and create your own “CSN My Space,” where you can post photos, a blog, audio, and other features.
Studies have shown the positive effects of support groups on cancer patients and victims of other diseases. These pluses include better ability to cope, higher quality of life, and one study showed an increase in longevity. There was a corresponding decline in three stressors: unwanted aloneness, loss of control, and loss of hope. Depression lessened and “zest for life” increased. Give it a try.