My mom used to tell me, “The Lord puts us in situations and through things so that we can help others that have to go through those same things.” When I was diagnosed with cancer in 2008 I had no idea how true that statement would be in my life. My struggles have helped me to understand the healing power and strength that encouragement and support can bring to individuals battling a cancer diagnosis. Because of my experiences, I am able to inspire, motivate, encourage, and be an ear for others walking through the same or similar situation because I know firsthand that there is life after cancer.
If my experience has taught me anything, it is that cancer treatment does not stop once you are declared cancer free. A support group or program that helps cancer survivors is an important part of the journey. Support programs offer advice on exercise, nutrition and strategies for dealing with fatigue. Open-forum discussions on personal struggles and achievements can help people overcome the feeling of isolation and concerns about the future.
When looking into a cancer survivor program, you should look for programs that offer the following:
Comprehensive emotional, social and educational support
A program should help you understand the effects cancer has on your body, mind and spirit, and ways to improve those areas after treatment/aftercare.
Lead to a greater quality of life
Outcomes such as reduced anxiety, stress, emotional distress and depression, fatigue and the experience of pain should be a focus, along with ways to improve mood, self-image, and your ability to cope with stress, and gain an overall feeling of control.
Continued support post-treatment
Being cancer free is the best possible outcome a person can hope for. Support is just as important during treatment and recovery as it is once the cancer is gone, when a new set of challenges may emerge. Post-treatment support connects you with others who are coping with similar hurdles, such as insurance/financial issues, reoccurrence, limited mobility or range of motion, diet, and changes in lifestyle normalcies.
Extended support to loved ones
A support program should welcome caregivers, family members and friends who may need encouragement while learning to cope with the cancer diagnosis of a loved one. Caregiver support offers open discussion, as well as educational information to help with practical advice and guidance from both trained professionals and other caregivers.
Cancer has made me a stronger human being, and the best version of myself I could have ever imagined. Every day I heed the words once spoken by my mom, and I remember that the path I am on is so that I am able to help others along their journey. I understand the importance that the right support can bring, and the power of healing it provides.
Speak to your provider to find a support group that fits your needs, or visit livestrong.org to learn more about cancer survivor programs and find out where you can get free support.