Community is key when it comes to living well with metastatic breast cancer. Strong social ties can help you feel less alone and more hopeful and in control of your future. Lots of emotional support may also ease symptoms of pain, fatigue, and depression.
Here’s how to make the most of your social network.
Benefits of Social Support When You Have Breast Cancer
It’s natural to want to manage as much as you can on your own. In fact, it’s a good thing to keep up with your daily routine. As long as you’re up for it, go to work, take a trip, or do things that make you happy and don’t have anything to do with breast cancer.
But a life-limiting illness is a lot easier to handle if you don’t go it alone.
Most people lean heavily on their partners, spouses, friends, or family. But your community can include:
- Spiritual or religious advisors
- People at work
- Your health care team
- Other people in the cancer community
If you have metastatic breast cancer, social support may help to:
- Lessen uncertainty about the future
- Buffer stress and lower your odds of infection during chemotherapy
- Ease symptoms of pain, depression, and anxiety
- Improve your sex life
- Boost your resilience and overall quality of life
Your community can be a big source of emotional support, along with the feeling that you’re cared for and have people to depend on. But there are some very practical ways your social network can help bolster your physical and mental well-being.
For example, cancer and its treatment can be a challenge to your body. You may have a lot less energy than you used to. Or you may have pain or nausea that makes it hard to do daily things. And it can be a big help if you have folks who can:
- Give you rides to and from treatment
- Clean or do chores around the house
- Help cook or go to the grocery store for you
- Pitch in with childcare
- Help you exercise
You may also want to bring a friend or family along to the doctor’s office. They can provide an extra set of ears and help advocate if don’t feel you’re being heard.
Keep in mind all the ways your doctor and cancer care team can support you. Tap into your health care community for info on your disease and how to adapt to life with metastatic breast cancer.
How Your Breast Cancer Community Can Provide Support
Many people find it helpful to talk with others who have the same or similar diagnosis. In other words, you may find it easier to be around folks who “get it.”
Studies show people with metastatic breast cancer often turn to online or in-person support groups to find info on
- Common side effects of treatment
- Pain control
- Different types of treatment
- Clinical trials to join
- Dietitians, physical therapy, or other support services
You can also check in with your metastatic breast cancer community about how to:
Boost your body image. Cancer and its treatment can change how you look. This can affect your well-being and self-esteem. But studies show group therapy with others who’ve lived through a similar experience may ease feelings of anxiety and depression about your body.
Do normal things. Get advice on how others approach daily life. You might find it hopeful to learn how others travel, work, and care for kids and family while having cancer.
Manage medical treatments. MBC isn’t curable, and you’ll need ongoing medical care to keep your disease under control. You can talk to others in your community about how they’ve learned to manage exams, scans, and doctor visits.
Cover costs of cancer treatment. The financial burden of treatment can cause depression, anxiety, or sleep problems. Researchers call this health effect “financial toxicity.” You may feel less stressed about your cancer care if you talk to others about how they’ve managed their costs or if financial counselors have helped.
Prepare for end-of-life issues. There will come a day where your cancer stops responding to treatment. Others with MBC can help you learn how to prepare for what comes next during the final stage of life.
How to Find Your Breast Cancer Community
Metastatic breast cancer affects everyone in a different way. And you may have unique needs based on the type of cancer you have, your age, or even your race or ethnicity.
You can start by searching online for “metastatic breast cancer support groups near me” and see what pops up. Facebook, Instagram, or other social networking sites may also connect you with like-minded folks. And don’t forget to ask your social worker or navigator for community resources in your area.
To connect with other young women with metastatic breast cancer, you can visit:
- Young Survival Coalition
- Here for the Girls
Breast cancer support geared toward Black women includes groups such as:
- African American Breast Cancer Alliance
- Black Women’s Health Imperative
- Sisters Network Inc.
- Sisters by Choice
You’ll also find in-person or virtual support through national groups such as:
- American Cancer Society’s Reach to Recovery
- Cancer Support Community
- Cancer Care
- Community at Breastcancer.org
- Imerman Angels
- Metastatic Breast Cancer Network
- Share Cancer Support
Visit the website of the National Cancer Institute for more information and resources on metastatic breast cancer.
Photo Credit: SDI Productions / Getty Images
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