Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Support Groups

Support is important in all aspects of life, especially after one receives a cancer diagnosis. A study was recently published in Journal of Clinical Oncology that notes the social well being benefits during the first year after a breast cancer diagnosis. The study details that:

  • Social well-being at six months after diagnosis was linked with both survival and risk of recurrence. Women with the highest level of social well-being had a 38% reduction in risk of death and a 48% reduction in risk of recurrence. The aspects of social well-being that appeared to provide the most benefit were marriage and family, social support, and interpersonal relationships.
  • The other measures of quality of life (physical, psychological, and material) at six months after diagnosis did not significantly affect cancer outcomes, although there was a suggestion that psychological well-being may be important.
  • By 36 months after diagnosis, none of the quality of life measures were strongly linked with cancer outcomes.

To get these statistics, researchers evaluated information from the Shanghai Breast Cancer Study. The study enrolled more than 2,000 women. Information about quality of life was collected six and 36 months after diagnosis.

So, what about support during your treatment? Friends, family and co-workers can offer support, but it’s sometimes just not the same from someone who hasn’t been there, done that. I personally went to a breast cancer support group two weeks after my diagnosis. I learned about this group through some of the literature that the center I received my treatment at gave me to read.  There were about 20 other women at this gathering and I was the youngest one there. Another gal who is 4 years older than me (I was 36 at the time) was there, but the rest were a good 20 years older.

One by one, each woman went around the room and told her specific breast cancer story. Most of the stories included all the gory details about surgery and recovery time. As much as I enjoyed meeting everyone and hearing about their cancer journeys, those women freaked me out. They mentioned things that I hadn’t thought of. Like getting an infection. Yikes! After I calmed down a bit, I realized that this was good information to have. The possibility of getting an infection was now on my radar along with a realistic idea of what to expect from surgery. This was my first ever real surgery. I had no expectations going in, but the women in the support group showed me the ropes so to speak. Fortunately for me, I wasn’t too scared off and continue to attend these monthly meetings.

At our last meeting, we had a new person join us. A man who is a breast cancer survivor. It must have been so difficult for him to attend the meeting, knowing he would be the only man. This time, I was able to tell my specific gory journey (mine really wasn’t that bad) and mentioned how at the first meeting, these women scared me. They all screamed with laughter when I said that! They knew I was well intentioned and was being honest. Just like we can all be with each other. The camaraderie and feedback from those that have been there is priceless. My battle was their battle and vice versa.

In addition to the emotional support they provide, they are one of the biggest fundraising groups in our area for the local Relay for Life (American Cancer Society Fundraiser). To raise the money, these gals have set up a mobile pink boutique sells pink goods of all kinds around the area. It’s nice to do good for others who are going through what we’ve been through.  I can’t imagine not knowing these women. They have all enriched my life for the better.

Have you ever attended a support group? Do you feel it’s beneficial? How big of a part of your recovery was it?


This article is intended to convey general educational information and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.

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