Build Your Support Network

Everyone handles cancer in different ways. You may think you have it all under control, but sometimes things get tough and you can feel lonely. Take these simple steps to build a network that will stick with you through the good times and the bad.

Join a support group. This can help you manage your feelings by letting you talk and share with people who feel the same way. Members often talk about which treatments worked for them and how they faced challenges.

When you talk to other people, you feel like part of a community. You realize you aren't alone and that lots of people are in the same boat. It helps you see that what you’re feeling is normal.

There are different types of support groups. Some are just for people who have cancer. Others include your main caregiver, often a spouse or other close family member. Family members or children may find one just for them.

Let people help. It can be hard to ask people to do things for you, especially if you've always been independent. Your family and friends want to help, but they might not know what to do. If someone says, "What can I do?" have an answer for them.

Let people pitch in with everyday chores like cooking, cleaning, and running errands. It can help to have someone come with you to the doctor. Ask a friend to write down important questions, and make sure you ask them. Let someone help keep track of your insurance and appointments.

If people want to bring you meals or stop by to visit, let someone keep a schedule. And keep in mind it’s OK to say no if you don't feel like having company on a certain day. They’ll understand if you decide to just put a meal in the freezer to eat it later.

Remember that your friends and family members may not know what you need or even what you want to talk about. They’ll probably be happy if you reach out with a quick call or message saying you'd love a certain snack or could use help with a task like walking the dog or doing the laundry.

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Go online for support. You can do this if you don’t want to get together in person or talk to people you know. Online support groups bring people together from all over the world to share what they're going through. These groups might have forums dealing with topics you care about, like chemotherapy or side effects.

Do your research. Ask your doctor or other people with cancer for suggestions. Look for groups linked to a cancer center or group like the Cancer Survivors Network from the American Cancer Society.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on January 23, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

National Comprehensive Cancer Network: "Finding Support Systems for People with Cancer."

American Society of Clinical Oncology: "Finding Support and Information."

American Academy of Family Physicians: "Cancer: Helping Your Family Help You."

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center:  "10 Tips for Supporting a Friend with Cancer."

Dana-Farber Caregiving Institute: "How to Create a Caregiving Plan."

American Cancer Society: "Online Communities and Support."

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