Join a Support Group
Studies have shown that women who are involved in a support group while going through breast cancer treatment actually do better and survival rates for them are longer than they are for those who do not participate. It is thought that being with others and experiencing the support stimulates a participant's immune system. Being with others who share the experience is a helpful way to deal with the emotional upheaval and issues that occur with breast cancer treatment. When you attend a support group, you will be exposed to other women who are at different stages of their breast cancer treatment. When someone going through treatment is introduced to long-term survivors, it can give her a sense of hope. And when those who may be at the same treatment stage can spend time with each other, they can share experiences and be of support to each other. You will find yourself bonding with certain women in your support group more than others, but in general it is a safe place where you can express your feelings, concerns, and fears without burdening those who are close to you. Breast cancer affects the entire family system and often it is difficult to share with close family and friends, because the experience is not something that they can understand completely as other women living with breast cancer. The breast cancer journey is uniquely yours and what helps and supports you during this time is yours to determine and act on.
In Her Own Words
I was fortunate to have found a support group shortly after I was diagnosed in September 2003. I had a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation as treatment. The whole ball of wax, as they say. My mother was in a nursing home with Alzheimer's and I have no siblings and was living alone with few friends in the area, so the support group became very important to me. I continue to go because I feel it is a way to “give back.” I had two friends die of breast cancer and I needed to see that there were survivors. The support group gave me that opportunity.
— Bevlynn, age 62, 5-year survivor
Breast cancer support groups have many advantages, and being with others and the friendships that occur are often very healing and empowering. Support groups may not be for everyone, but the important thing is that you have a safe environment to express your feelings and concerns. Individual counseling can also be effective and breast cancer treatment centers usually have social workers you can speak to or who can refer you to a counselor in your area.