When a friend or family member is diagnosed with breast cancer, it can be devastating; not just devastating, but virtually immobilizing. It’s difficult to know how to help or where to turn. It’s important for the cancer sufferer to have a support system to rely on, an outlet for sharing fears and feelings. It’s also important for family and friends to connect with each other and organize their efforts to help. Without such assistance, so many people who are touched by cancer are left bereft and helpless.
There is a great deal of guilt and a feeling of being ineffectual in the face of this catastrophe. It’s important that those involved have a way to channel their efforts to help the cancer sufferer; volunteering to shop for groceries, prepare and deliver meals or babysit can be a big help to anyone with a family who has to concentrate on making sure they receive attention throughout the ordeal. After the initial shock has worn off, it helps to have a central point of mobilization to help in coordinating the efforts of everyone involved.
American Association for Cancer Research
The AACR offers a guide to choosing a support group. Selecting a support group can assist in alleviating the fear experienced by everyone involved in a cancer diagnosis. For the cancer sufferer, choosing a support group helps answer many of the questions doctors and others in the medical profession cannot. Support from cancer patients who have personal experience in dealing with the feelings and emotions associated with the process can be a godsend. For family and friends, support group sites can help answer questions that they may not be comfortable asking their loved one, and alleviate the sense of not knowing how to approach the situation.
The AACR recommends the following sites for both cancer patients and those involved with them:
- The American Cancer Society (ACS) – available 24 hours a day at 1-800-ACS-2345, the ACS funds research, offers education and treatment options. It also provides health and lifestyle information and maintains a referral network for local services and support groups. http://www.cancer.org/
- Cancer Survivors Network (CSN) – an on-line community with message boards and chats; also available by phone at 1-877-333-HOPE, or through http://csn.cancer.org/.
- CancerCare – on-line support, counseling, education and financial assistance; with facilities in New York City, Long Island, New Jersey and Connecticut. http://www.cancercare.org/
- Cancer News – for both women and men, covers several forms of cancer diagnoses and provides information on diagnosis, treatment and prevention. http://www.cancernews.com/
- The National Cancer Institute Database – a division of the government’s National Institutes of Health, the NCI primarily offers information on cancer research and medical terminology, with cancer-related services and referrals. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/cancerdatabase
- OncoChat – provides peer support, not medical advice or counseling. It is a “global support community for people whose lives have been touched by cancer.” http://www.oncochat.org/
- The Cancer Support Community – on-line support for patients, caregivers, family and others; maintains a number of facilities all over the United States. http://www.cancersupportcommunity.org/
Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation
One of the most visible breast cancer concerns is the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation (http://ww5.komen.org). The foundation fosters numerous research projects and presents awards for achievements in the area of cancer research. Though Komen has received some negative publicity in the past over political conflicts with Planned Parenthood, it remains a good resource for information and offers excellent tips for selecting a support group. It also provides references for support groups for men with breast cancer (a slightly overlooked contingent). Among Komen’s recommended sites:
- Association of Cancer Online Resources – a network of 142 on-line cancer communities for parents, caregivers and friends to initiate discussions on experiences, psychological issues and other related topics associated with a cancer diagnosis. http://www.acor.org/
- Caring Bridge – Started in 1997, this is a network which maintains the privacy of its members, offers a health journal, personal planning and scheduling tools, mobile connections and a help center with advisers to serve its participants. http://www.caringbridge.org/
- Lotsa Helping Hands – a great on-line community which features a Help Calendar through which friends and family can schedule tasks, and a message board for communication between members. This can help with scheduling meals during the chemotherapy phase (at a time when cooking is the farthest thing from your mind). Other commitments or donations can be coordinated through the network. There are controls for grouping participants and maintaining privacy. https://www.lotsahelpinghands.com/
For cancer patients and survivors, as well as for those who care for and support them, there are a number of organizations which can provide helpful information and guidance for navigating this most difficult time, from diagnosis, surgery and treatment to recovery. “The Big C” need not be the dirty word it once was; there is more hope for survival than ever, and support for those who need it.