Thousands of people are touched by cancer every day; yet in the early days of diagnosis the feeling that you are alone in your struggle is nearly universal. A cancer diagnosis is an isolating event.
Patients and their families talk of feeling like the walls of their world are closing in on them. In the shock of dealing with their cancer diagnosis and coping with the overwhelming task of scheduling doctors’ visits and lab work, evaluating the potential effectiveness of traditional and alternative cancer treatments, making arrangements to start treatment, and managing all the changes cancer inflicts on their personal, family and work life, many cancer patients and their families tend to draw back from their normal support systems, increasing their feelings of isolation.
Many times newly-diagnosed cancer patients hesitate to share their diagnosis with extended family, friends or co-workers until they have a clearer picture of what they’re facing and how cancer might affect their ability to continue their normal activities. Often, cancer patients and their immediate families are so overwhelmed by their own fears and emotions that they are simply unable to also deal with the fears and emotions of others. While friends mean well, cancer patients can find their raw expressions of concern and sympathy uncomfortable and even embarrassing.
Despite all these difficulties, cancer patients and their families desperately need support. Cancer is a difficult battle that is impossibly hard to fight alone. Many cancer patients find the support they need in online communities where cancer patients and their families share their stories of hope and help lift each other up when despair strikes.
Next time: A review of online cancer support groups