Bringing more love and support into your life

Love and support often comes from family members or friends. However, we realize not everyone is fortunate enough to have such connections. Common ways to expand social support include support groups, community and church organizations, and colleagues. Many cancer centers and communities offer groups for people with cancer.

Suggestions for creating a supportive network

Assemble your team

Make a list of all the people in your life who can help support you––emotionally (listening) or practically (driving you to treatments, providing meals, and much more). Identify the specific kinds of support each person can give you. Think about family, friends, neighbors, members of a church or community organization you belong to, colleagues, and acquaintances. Think outside the box to other connections you have to people who would understand what you’re experiencing. Maybe there are friends and relatives whom you don’t usually have contact with, but who would like to come back into your life to help you. This is your go-to team. Remember, your team doesn’t have to be large.

When you don’t feel well enough to organize your support, ask someone to organize and enlist help for you. For instance, this person might be in charge of contacting people who would prepare meals for you.

Care for your caregivers

Support works both ways, which is why we call this practice Sharing Love and Support. Just as you will need physical and emotional support, those who care for you need support, too. Be sure to include your primary caregivers in your support plans. Find respite care for them if possible so that they can enjoy some time away from the demands of caregiving. They need to tend to their own needs and replenish their emotional and physical reserves. Partnering to tend to your and their emotional, physical, and spiritual needs may deepen your relationship, lower stress for all of you, and improve everyone’s quality of life.

Support groups

Join a support group

If you don’t have a strong support system with family and friends, consider joining a support group that has members who are going through similar experiences and challenges as you, such as a cancer-specific group, a “young adults with cancer” group, a metastatic cancer group, and so on.

Being part of a support group means you have opportunities to give as well as receive support.

Integrative physician and CancerChoices advisor Keith Block, MD, suggests that support groups seem to be most helpful during treatment or after treatment, but not right after diagnosis.1Block KI. Life Over Cancer: The Block Center Program for Integrative Cancer Care. New York: Bantam Dell. 2009.

Finding support

Many online and virtual social support programs are available for people with cancer.

Support groups from our partners

Healing Circles Global

Support circles for people with cancer, caregivers, and others facing difficult situations

Find a healing circle

Smith Center for Healing and the Arts

Free virtual support groups, healing circles, and other programs with group interaction as well as virtual retreats for people living with cancer

Program & Retreat Calendar

Further support groups

National Comprehensive Cancer Network

Support groups are available on dozens of topics related to cancer.

Advocacy and Support Groups

Online discussion forums

American Cancer Society

Large, active online peer discussion boards based on types of cancer and key topics

Cancer Survivors Network

Cancer Connect

Current cancer treatment news and educational content, plus more than 60 moderated social communities for people with cancer and caregivers

Used by leading cancer centers

Visit the website

Cancer Support Community

Start Here ›

MyLifeLine ›
Connect with others through moderated discussion boards, find resources on living with cancer, communicate with family and friends through a private website or blog, utilize the calendar to track appointments, and post requests for help from family and friends

Inspire

A platform used by over 200 organizations, including over 35 different cancer organizations such as the Lung Cancer Association, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Fight Colorectal Cancer and the Kidney Cancer Association

Find the support you need from a community of people like you

Smart Patients

Robust, active peer-to-peer discussion groups in clean format, featuring patient stories of hope

Not limited to cancer

Visit the website

For young adults

Join other types of groups where you feel kinship

Consider participating in other groups activities such as these:2Alschuler LN, Gazella KA. The Definitive Guide to Thriving after Cancer: A Five-Step Integrative Plan to Reduce the Risk of Recurrence and Build Lifelong Health. Berkeley, California: Ten Speed Press. 2013. 

  • Book club
  • Discussion group
  • Class
  • Volunteer group

Important sources of social support reported by children and adolescents with cancer include relationships with immediate family members, aerobic classes, age-appropriate support groups, online networks, survivor day picnics, family retreats and facilitation of storytelling.3Turner JK, Hutchinson A, Wilson C. Correlates of post-traumatic growth following childhood and adolescent cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychooncology. 2017 Nov 2.

Retreats

If you’re drawn to it, look into attending a retreat for people with cancer. Some can be specific to age groups or types of cancer.

Find a supportive professional

Meet with a professional who can provide emotional and practical support, such as an oncology social worker, a cancer navigator, or a counselor who works with people with cancer.

Personal stories

Sharing love widely

39-year-old Manuel Garcia spent weeks in the hospital for cancer treatment. He felt all alone in his baldness and cancer until, as he finally returned home, he was surprised by an incredible act of love and support. A New York Times article reports his homecoming

A song commemorates his story.

Manuel Garcia © David Roth ~ www.davidrothmusic.com ~ used with permission, performed by Laura Pole

Further stories

Read more stories from our cancer community of people who have made Sharing Love and Support an important part of their cancer care.

Resources

I Am with You: Love Letters to Cancer Patients

Edited by Nancy Novack and Barbara K. Richardson

Access the book

Cancer.Net

From the American Society of Clinical Oncology

Finding Social Support and Information

Association of Cancer Online Resources

A collection of online cancer communities designed to provide timely and accurate information in a supportive environment

Access the website

Keep reading

Authors

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS

Senior Clinical Consultant
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Laura Pole is senior clinical consultant for CancerChoices. Laura is an oncology clinical nurse specialist who has been providing integrative oncology clinical care, navigation, consultation, and education services for over 40 years. She is the co-creator and co-coordinator of the Integrative Oncology Navigation Training at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, DC. Laura also manages the “Media Watch Cancer News That You Can Use” listserv for Smith Center/Commonweal. In her role as a palliative care educator and consultant, Laura has served as statewide Respecting Choices Faculty for the Virginia POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment) Collaborative as well as provided statewide professional education on palliative and end-of-life care for the Virginia Association for Hospices and Palliative Care.

For CancerChoices, Laura curates content and research, networks with clinical and organizational partners, brings awareness and education of integrative oncology at professional and patient conferences and programs, and translates research into information relevant to the patient experience as well as clinical practice.

Laura sees her work with CancerChoices as a perfect alignment of all her passions, knowledge and skills in integrative oncology care. She is honored to serve you.

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS Senior Clinical Consultant

Nancy Hepp, MS

Lead Researcher and Program Manager
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Ms. Hepp is a researcher and communicator who has been writing and editing educational content on varied health topics for more than 20 years. She serves as lead researcher, program manager, and writer for CancerChoices. Her graduate work in research and cognitive psychology, her master’s degree in instructional design, and her certificate in web design have all guided her in writing and presenting information for a wide variety of audiences and uses. Nancy’s service as faculty development coordinator in the Department of Family Medicine at Wright State University also provided experience in medical research, plus insights into medical education and medical care from the professional’s perspective.

Nancy Hepp, MS Lead Researcher and Program Manager

Last update: May 14, 2022

CancerChoices provides information about integrative in cancer care, a patient-centered approach combining the best of conventional care, self care and evidence-informed complementary care in an integrated plan cancer care. We review complementaryin cancer care, complementary care involves the use of therapies intended to enhance or add to standard conventional treatments; examples include supplements, mind-body approaches such as yoga or psychosocial therapy, and acupuncture therapies and self-care lifestyle actions and behaviors that may impact cancer outcomes; examples include eating health-promoting foods, limiting alcohol, increasing physical activity, and managing stress practices to help patients and professionals explore and integrate the best combination of conventionalthe cancer care offered by conventionally trained physicians and most hospitals; examples are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy and complementary therapies and practices for each person.