Five Ways to get the Most out of Your Support Group
Whether attending a support group meeting for the type of cancer you have or related to receiving a bone marrow and stem cell transplant, you want to be sure you’re getting the most out of it. Here are 5 tips to make sure you have a positive experience.
- Find the Right Support Group
The most important step is finding the group that is best for you based on your personal experience. The best way to find the right support group is by trying different ones to see which ones you like. There is no rule that says you have to commit to a group after attending only one session. You may even want to go to a few support groups simultaneously to get alternate perspectives.
Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian provide many different support groups with different topics and speakers each month. To learn more about our different support groups visit our events calendar found here. You may also view NewYork-Presbyterian’s cancer-specific support groups.
- Attend the Meetings Regularly
After you’ve committed to a support group or groups, you should start attending the meetings on a regular basis. Only going occasionally will not provide you with the ultimate benefit of getting to know those in the group. Building relationships with the group leader and participants will be helpful and will offer the opportunity to connect with people even outside the group if that is something in which you are interested. Knowing others who are going through a similar experience can bring you comfort and support.
- Speak Up
You may not feel comfortable speaking publicly during the support group right away but over time, you will get the most of your experience if you tell your story. Being open and honest can be a great tool during your diagnosis and treatment. Sometimes telling your story out loud can be restorative and healing.
- Keep an Open Mind
You may have preconceived thoughts and opinions before going to support group meetings. However, it’s important to keep an open mind and try not to close yourself off to solutions and guidance that is offered during the meetings. Remember that you’re going to these meetings to get an alternative perspective and you may even learn about new methods of treatment. If you hear of a new treatment that you want to learn more about, speak with your doctor.
- Include Your Caregiver
Most of the time, support groups will allow you to bring your caregiver or family member with you. Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian have support groups for family members on the unit. We hold a General Oncology Caregiver Support Group on Thursday afternoons at 2:00PM. Patients should reach out to their social worker for additional information on these groups. The reason this is helpful is because so much information is shared and it’s better to have two minds remembering all the information as opposed to just one. The process of going through a stem cell transplant is also taxing for a caregiver, so they can also benefit from a support group. If you’d prefer to attend alone, it’s a good idea to share what you learned with your caregiver or family member. Since they are your primary caretaker, they should be aware of any new treatments or resources that could be available to you. They can then provide assistance in figuring out ways to integrate those resources into your life.