Written By: Kim Matthews
You can review research literature to discover numerous benefits of support groups. Research studies, as well as the Center’s own group evaluations, have shown that participation in cancer support groups can reduce anxiety, stress and depression. Group members often learn from one another about healthy ways of coping with stress, improving sleep, improving communication with family, better advocating for themselves with their healthcare team, generally improving their quality of life. The same is true for those supporting a family member with a diagnosis.
These are just a very few testimonials from past group members…
I have a large, supportive and loving support system of family and friends. However, my Cancer Wellness Center support group really understands what I am experiencing and helps normalize what I am feeling and thinking. They are an important addition to my support team!
I thought my fear of recurrence was abnormal. I did not join my support group until after treatment ended, when my family all thought I should “return to normal”. With the help of my group, I have come to understand that my experiences and feelings actually are normal for someone who has had a cancer diagnosis. I have learned how to live with and cope with my fears without letting them control my life.
My doctor discouraged me from attending a support group because it would be “too depressing”. Since joining my group, I have let my doctor and the whole team know that my group actually provides me with hope. Even when one of my beloved group members dies, I am inspired by her determination to find joy in life up until the end, her courage and her grace. All of my support group friends are my inspiration for how I want to live with my diagnosis.
The first couple of times I attended group, I didn’t know if I should return. I left feeling worse than when I came in because now I was also hearing other difficult stories, some of which stirred up my own anxiety. But I have come to realize that I am surrounded by courageous women in this group who continue to work, raise families, move to new homes, travel…they just continue to live…all despite the challenges of living with their diagnoses and treatment. Now, most of the time, I leave group feeling bolstered by the reality that I can also still find enjoyment in my life while living with this diagnosis.
In my group, I have learned to be the best caregiver that I can be. I have also learned that I don’t need to feel guilty about taking care of myself. I can’t be the best caregiver if I am sleep-deprived and home bound. I am doing the best I can and I am grateful for the opportunity to take care of the person I love most in the world.
I will always miss my wife, but I know that she would want me to continue to live. My bereavement group constantly helps me remember this and I learn so much from the examples of others. We struggle together but we also celebrate each other’s successes. I am gradually learning to experiencing moments of joy again.
In my 20+ years of facilitating support groups at the Cancer Wellness Center, I have heard MANY testimonials to the benefits of group support. This is not to say that support groups are without risk. For instance, you will be sad if a fellow group member dies. Your anxiety is likely to increase when someone else has a recurrence. However, the reality is that these scenarios also happen in your life outside group. But in group, you have an opportunity to explore these struggles with honest, open, emotional discussions about these experiences and how to cope with them.
Cancer Wellness Center offers support groups for:
- Young Adults with a cancer diagnosis (Co-Ed ages 20 to 40)
- Young Women with a cancer diagnosis (through age 50)
- Women with a cancer diagnosis
- Men with a cancer diagnosis
- Co-Ed with a cancer diagnosis (Grayslake location)
- Significant Others/Primary Caregivers of someone with a cancer diagnosis
- Bereaved Spouses
- Young Widows/Widowers who have children at home
- Weight Loss for Wellness for those within two years post-treatment
Groups for which we are recruiting:
- Family Loss (bereaved siblings, adult children)
- Spirituality Group – making meaning of the cancer experience
If you are interested in a support group, please call the Center’s clinical intake associate, Katie Hull, LCSW at 847-562-4981. She will complete a brief intake with you and help to refer you to the appropriate group.