Cancer is No Longer a Solo Battle

When a cancer diagnosis is handed down, individuals feel like all the lights have been switched off in an instant and they are plunged into a terrible darkness where hope is hard to find. Even with the loving support of their families and friends, sometimes patients need to get together with people who have been there or are currently dealing with the same illness because fellow sufferers truly know and understand what another patient is going through. By turning to support groups, patients and their loved ones can start to make sense of the devastating news and not have to face the fear of cancer alone.

What are support groups? These are a circle of people that provide a safe haven for the patient seeking comfort and assistance. Such groups have been shown to improve the health of the patient by helping manage life with cancer.

According to the US National Cancer Institute, some of the benefits of joining support groups  include being able  to  talk about feelings  so  cancer  patients  can  work  through them; dealing with the side effects of treatments; and even helping them with real-life problems like issues at work or school.Others receive advice on dietary requirements and  where  to  find  donors  or  financial  assistance,  as  well  as  the  latest  word  about medical treatments.

There are different types of support groups depending on the type of support that you wish for and need. In the Philippines, there are communities that cancer patients can turn to for relief and encouragement.

  • Some support groups are created for particular types of cancers. An example is ICanServe Foundation which caters to breast cancer patients. ICanServe offers assistance  by  spreading  awareness  about  breast  cancer,  leading  patients  to sources of financial help, and serving as a platform for those who may want to donate for the cause.
  • There are formal  volunteer groups,  like  advocates of  the fight against pediatric cancer.  One  such  local  group  is  Project  Brave  Kids,  started  by  parents  whose child  was  once  diagnosed  with  leukemia.  When  they  witnessed  the  plight  of cancer kids in a government hospital, they felt the need to help other cancer warriors. Another organization that assists and supports hospitalized children with cancer is Kythe Foundation, composed of trained professionals.
  • Those  who  want  to  seek  hospital-based  support  have  the  following  options, among others: Hope Unlimited which is based at the Cardinal Santos Hospital in San Juan City, The Medical City Breast Cancer Support Group, Corridor of Hope at  St.  Luke’s  Hospital  in  Quezon  City,  Cradle  of  Hope  Cancer  Support  Group located at James L. Gordon Memorial Hospital in Olongapo City, and Aruga in Sta. Cruz, Manila at Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center.
  • For cancer patients and their families who want information on how to take action against  cancer  effectively,  they  can  access  the  website  hopefromwithin.org. Hope from Within offers broad range of information about the importance of early screening,  access  and  discussing  relevant  breakthrough  treatment  options  for cancer.
  • Patients  can  also  look  at  Cancer  Coalition  Philippines  (CCPh)  and  Philippine Alliance   of   Patient   Organizations   (PAPO).   CCPh   is   composed   of   patient organizations, health care providers, cancer advocates and champions engaging and  working  with  government,  policy  makers,  private  sector,  civil  society,  and international development partners. It aims to promote better health outcomes for cancer patients, cancer survivors, and their families. PAPO, on the other hand, is a strong network of disease-specific patient groups that also seeks to empower Filipino patients.
  • Aside  from  groups  that  extend  emotional  support,  there  are  organizations  that help  alleviate  the  financial  burden  of  cancer  patients.  The  Philippine  Charity Sweepstakes  Office  (PCSO)  provides  assistance  via  the  Individual  Medical Assistance Program (IMAP) to help subsidize some of the treatment costs.

How can a person join support groups? Most can now be accessed online. The depth and breadth of the internet are tremendous and when harnessed correctly, it can be an excellent  tool  to  reach  and  connect  to  the  right  information  and  people.  If  you’re interested in being part of a support group, first feel around if the group or site is a good fit for you, then ask to be included into the group. Joining online groups is now as easy as  a  click  of  a  button.  Information  can  also  be  found  in  hospitals  where  peer  group counseling networks post contact details and services on bulletin boards.

Whatever  type  of  community you  decide to  join,  know that the members are  there to provide comfort and empowerment to patients and their families. Personal stories and testimonials are important to help us feel that we are not alone. Some patients may not feel comfortable narrating private experiences, and that’s okay. Participate in your own unique way, in a manner that makes you feel at home. Depending on your need and the level of engagement that you hope to develop, see what works for you. At the end of the day, what’s great is that a person no longer has to face cancer alone.

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