Written by SMH Oncology Clinical Counselor Elizabeth Bornstein
There are nearly 17 million cancer survivors in the U.S., according to the National Cancer Institute. For each, the cancer journey is unique. Yet, into each varied experience are woven common threads: feelings of overwhelm, loneliness and helplessness; and grief over the life they knew before the diagnosis.
Well-meaning family and friends may offer support, but it can be difficult to be around people who “don’t get it” — those who haven’t experienced cancer from the perspective of patient or caregiver. Some loved ones may even back away, unsure of what to say or how to help.
Feeling disconnected from friends, family and even the “you” you were before cancer can be inextricably isolating. But no one has to weather this season alone. Human connection — bonding with others on the cancer journey — can be powerful medicine.
The Power of Connecting
Long-term studies have consistently shown that cancer survivors (and caregivers) can reap a range of benefits from engaging in cancer support groups, social activities and wellness opportunities that bring together people living with cancer, and their loved ones. Surrounding yourself with others who are also overcoming the day-to-day challenges and emotions of cancer can:
- Enable forging new, enlivening relationships.
- Help with feeling heard and understood.
- Alleviate loneliness and isolation.
- Enhance recovery.
- Boost endurance.
- Improve overall quality of life.
There are many options for finding like-minded groups for help and support along the cancer journey, including:
- In-person support groups dedicated to cancer patients, survivors and/or caregivers.
- In-person meetups.
- Wellness and exercise classes designed with oncology patients in mind.
- Virtual / online support groups (like those on Facebook).
- Oncology-specific counseling or therapy.
For online options, check out the American Cancer Society's offerings or search for reputable groups on Facebook or Meetup.com. Ask your oncology team for recommendations of safe and reputable groups or organizations as well.
Local Cancer Support Options
In the Sarasota-Bradenton area, a local organization called Team Tony provides peer mentor support and social activities for people with cancer and their loved ones. Click here for more information or call 941-227-4404.
Here at Sarasota Memorial’s Institute for Cancer Care, Oncology Nurse Navigators can offer helpful guidance. Call 941-917-1981.
Sarasota Memorial’s Thrive support groups and wellness classes offer cancer patients the opportunity to overcome the challenging side effects of cancer treatments while meeting others managing similar issues. Loved ones are invited to participate in the classes as well. Click here for a calendar of upcoming events or call 941-917-7827.
And finally, Sarasota Memorial’s Oncology Counseling program provides cancer patients and their loved ones with emotional support, problem-solving and coping strategies, as well as assistance with identifying cancer-specific resources in our community and beyond. Call 941-917-7293.
A licensed, oncology and advanced palliative- and hospice-certified clinical social worker, Elizabeth Bornstein, MSSA, LCSW, OSW-C, APHSW-C, oversees and provides oncology counseling at Sarasota Memorial’s Cancer Institute. She has advanced training in mind-body medicine and expressive arts, and has facilitated oncology counseling for nearly two decades.