by Gail Hamm, program director
“Support groups are scary to me as I’m in early phase of cancer & it reveals to me my future in seeing what others are going through.” ~Anonymous Cancer Services’ Client
As program director, I have the privilege of reading the evaluation responses that we receive. I was struck by the openness of the author and only wish that I could talk with this individual.
I have facilitated support groups for a number of years and supervised other facilitators. I am also a cancer survivor who has attended groups as a participant. I understand how scary it is to attend the very first time. The fear is that you will hear very sad stories, when all you want is support for yourself.
Here is what really happens at a support group. The groups at Cancer Services are facilitated by professionals, usually social workers, counselors, or nurses. The people who attend range from those newly diagnosed (pre-treatment) to those who have endured treatment and now have come back to provide hope to others. The group members share information about their physicians, about treatments they have received (which may be different from others in the group), and especially about side-effects and how they have minimized those effects. They share information on ways to prevent or relieve mouth sores, radiation discomfort, nausea, and so forth. They explain feeding tubes, how to deal with dry mouth, and how to live with the after-effects of cancer and treatments. Caregivers are able to relate to one another and receive the support they need.
Yes, sometimes what people share is sad. But mostly, I hear people encouraging and providing enormous hope to one another. Knowledge is power.
Come to group at least once; preferably several times. See what brings others back as they recover and re-enter life. You will not regret the decision.
by Beth Heironimus
In May of 2011, my sister-in-law died. She was much more to me than a sister-in-law, or even a sister — she was a combination surrogate mother and a best friend.
I’ve experienced losses before. My mother and father are both gone. Friends gave me books about grief. I didn’t want books about grief. I wanted my sister-in-law. Our relationship was complicated, and I was struggling to find my way without her.
A friend suggested a workshop, “Invisible Ink,” that was to be held at Cancer Services. It was free, and so I thought I’d give it a try. It involved writing a series of letters to the person lost. That sounds simple, but it is challenging, enlightening, cathartic, painful and freeing all at the same time. You are guided through the process by a caring and skilled facilitator and each session involves a meditation followed by writing and discussion.
Not only have I found it to be a freeing experience for me, it has been powerful to watch other members of the group come to grips with their own losses. We come to grief from differing perspectives. Losing someone dear is never easy. Some deaths are long and arduous, others sudden and shocking. All are painful.
What a gift this workshop has been to me. I would recommend it to anyone regardless of where they are on their own grief journey. It has helped me not only to grieve, but also to grow.
Invisible Ink will be offered again in the fall. Sign up for our newsletter to receive a notification when dates are available.
Founded in 1944, CancerCare is a national nonprofit organization that provides free, professional support services to anyone affected by cancer, including people with cancer, caregivers, children, loved ones, and the bereaved. CancerCare programs are provided by professional oncology social workers and are completely free of charge. Last year, the organization provided individual help to more than 100,000 people, in addition to the more than 1 million unique visitors to its website: www.cancercare.org.
Through its website, you can gain access to counseling, support groups, publications, financial assistance, therapeutic activities, special events information and Connect Education Workshops. We’d like to draw attention two upcoming workshops:
Understanding and Managing Chemotherapy Side Effects, Friday, January 21, 2011, 1:30-2:30PM Eastern Time.
Caring for Your Bones When You Have Breast Cancer: What’s New? Friday, February 11, 2011, 1:30-2:30PM Eastern Time.
You can listen to these workshop online or via telephone.
There are two ways to register:
Call 1-800-813-HOPE (4673) or online at www.cancercare.org/connect.
You can also view a full schedule of Connect Workshops at www.cancercare.org/connect.
by Gail Hamm, program director
Support Groups are great places to share information and support your fellow cancer sojourners. One night, Tom shared with the group that we could choose to be the pigeon or the statue. He wasn’t talking about the merits of flying versus being rock solid. He was talking about our choice to be either the victor or the victim.
There are certainly lots of times during cancer and the treatments when we may feel put upon. But the only way to survive is to fly like a pigeon. To be alive. To make choices. To not become the statue that all the pigeons roost upon.
Which is it for you? Will you be the pigeon or the statue?