Cancer support groups can provide tremendous support when you are living with lung cancer. You may have the most loving family and friends on the planet, but unless they have experienced cancer themselves, it is hard for them to really understand what you are going through. Cancer support groups offer an opportunity to share with others who have “been there” and experienced the array of emotions that come with a diagnosis of cancer.
Cancer support groups are also a place where you can learn from others. How did they feel during their treatment? How did they manage the financial strain? What worked to manage their symptoms? What questions should you be asking your doctor?
While any cancer support group may be helpful, many people living with lung cancer appreciate groups that are just for people with lung cancer. A 60-year-old man with stage 4 lung cancer told me that it was hard for him to connect with a 30-year-old woman with breast cancer in his support group. While he was concerned about leaving his family behind, her greatest concern seemed to be whether she would be able to get pregnant after treatment. That said, there is a common bond that people with any form of cancer experience, and spending time in person, on the telephone, or online with other cancer survivors can be very rewarding.
What Should I Look For in a Cancer Support Group?Cancer support groups are not all the same, and it is important to find a group in which you feel comfortable. Look for a group that has “good listeners” -- people that don’t answer your sentences before you are finished speaking, and don’t jump to offering advice without hearing all you have to say. Try to find a group that has a positive emphasis as well. While sharing and supporting each other through the difficult times is crucial, having a group that becomes a “pity party” can leave you feeling drained and less than optimistic.
Local GroupsLocal support groups offer the advantage of face-to-face contact with other group members, although they also require the energy of leaving your home to attend meetings. Options can include:
- Your cancer care center, hospital, or oncology group: Ask your oncologist what options are available.
- Community support groups: Many communities have cancer support groups. Ask your friends, call your local community office, or check your community newspaper to see what is available in your town. The Lung Cancer Alliance provides a list of different states that offer face-to-face support groups along with contact information.
Online Support GroupsOnline support groups may lack the face-to-face interaction of local support groups, but they have the advantage of allowing you to make connections from home without traveling. Since the Internet is available 24/7, they also allow members to reach out for support any time of day or night. Some options include:
LUNGevity offers the largest online network of people coping with lung cancer. In addition to the support community, the organization provides Lifeline for mentorship, LinkUP, and a caregiver resource center.
CancerCare is a national non-profit organization that offers online support groups, telephone support groups, and for those living in the New York Tri-State area, face to face support groups.
- The Cancer Survivors Network
The Cancer Survivors Network is part of the American Cancer Society, and provides discussion groups and chat rooms for cancer survivors and their loved ones.
- The Wellness Community
The Wellness Community has online support groups for those living with cancer and for caregivers of those with cancer.
Cancer Compass has many active message board discussions where cancer survivors can ask questions and interact online with others.
Telephone Cancer SupportFor those who prefer the telephone over the Internet, or desire one-on-one telephone counseling, services are available as well. Free services are offered by:
- CancerCare Telephone Counseling
CancerCare provides free individual counseling for those with lung cancer.
- Cancer Information and Counseling Line (CICL)
The CICL offers free telephone support for those diagnosed and living with cancer and their family and friends.
Matching Services for One-on-One Cancer Support
- Phone Buddy Program
The Lung Cancer Alliance (LCA) offers this wonderful program. Staff at the LCA interview lung cancer survivors and their caregivers, and match them with other lung cancer survivors and/or caregivers that are facing similar situations.
- Cancer Hope Network
Cancer Hope Network matches cancer patients with trained volunteers that have also gone through cancer treatment.
Keeping in Touch With Family and Friends
CaringBridge provides a website for cancer survivors and their families, so they can keep in touch with other family members and friends. Those with cancer or a representative can post updates, and loved ones can sign in and send notes of support and encouragement.
Lung Cancer Survivors Groups
- Lung Cancer Alliance Survivors Support Community
The Lung Cancer Alliance has an active lung cancer survivor’s community.
Support for Children of Lung Cancer SurvivorsAmidst the rigors of treatment, we can sometimes forget the needs of the children of those living with lung cancer. CancerCare for Kids offers online support groups for teens (13-19) that have a parent with cancer.
CancerCare. Support Groups. Accessed 07/20/09. http://www.cancercare.org/get_help/supportgroups.php
Lung Cancer Alliance. Support Groups. Accessed 07/20/09. http://www.lungcanceralliance.org/facing/support_groups.html
National Cancer Institute. National Organizations that Offer Services to People With Cancer and Their Families. Accessed 07/20/09. https://cissecure.nci.nih.gov/factsheet/FactsheetSearchResult.aspx?PubLnk=8.1&CancerType=14