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Cancer. The word no one wants to hear. Unfortunately, every second someone out there is struggling with it. Whether you’ve just been diagnosed, going through treatment, have beaten cancer, or are the loved one of someone going through it, you know it changes your life and it is an extremely difficult time. Finding ways to cope with cancer and the changes it brings is essential for your wellbeing. The following by no means is to tell you how to live your life or how to feel, and these suggestions may not work for everyone. It is made to outline different resources available out there, inspire and promote your own conclusions, and ideally help someone out there. The resources to find support groups, more information, and general support are located at the end, so feel free to skip down there at any point.

Health and Wellbeing

Cancer causes an emotional rollercoaster and truly tests your mental strength. There’re times of hope, times when there’s no hope, and everything in between. How do you deal with the hard times, changing self-image and different emotions?
  • Acknowledge and embrace how you are feeling, don’t suppress your emotions, you have every right to feel sad, or angry. The key here is to not let them control you.
  • Practice mindfulness, meaning “maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens; and accepting our thoughts and feelings without judgement.” referenced from berkely.edu. It simply means taking each day moment by moment, being in control and accepting your emotions without letting them cloud your judgment.
  • Dealing with the changes in self-image, find ways to feel comfortable and to feel like yourself again. Maybe you buy a new dress, decide to wear a wig or get breast implants, or maybe you embrace the change and be proud that you’re fighting and not giving up.
  • Build your community of support and love, lean on and open up to your loved ones, and/or find a support group that you relate with. Everything is easier when you’re not in it alone. When times are tough and seem like there is no hope, your community of loved ones and support can be the light that you need.
  • Stay active, this can help you stay feeling good and can help you take your mind off the situation. It also is known to reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Eat healthy and avoid bad habits like drinking and smoking. By eating healthy and avoiding things your doctor says to you are reducing your risk, and there’s no reason to add more stress and the possibility of further complications.
  • Find things that make you happy and do them.
  • Embrace your strength and be proud of it, you’re a fighter and an inspiration.
  • After treatment and even during, educate yourself about your condition and know what signs and symptoms to look out for. This will help you not get anxious and worry about every ache and pain.
  • Most importantly don’t give up and give in.
  • Maybe just as important, know where to get help and ask for it.

Sex

Cancer and its treatments can affect your sex life, but you can still maintain a healthy and enjoyable sex life with your partner. The biggest key is communication with your significant other. During this process, mental and physical changes have occurred, and it is a new time for you both. Talking through these changes and feelings is the first step in moving forward. Communicating with your partner will bring you back to the same page and allow each other to understand the others side. If you bottle up your feelings and concerns they can compound and escalate to something worse. Not only that, but your partner is left in the dark, and has no idea how best to move forward. Eliminating the what ifs and uncertainties of how each other are feeling, lets you both tackle the situation as one and support each other. Your each other’s better half but without understanding you can’t be a whole. Take an ice cream sandwich, without the ice cream, there are just two plain cookies; add ice cream and those cookies come together to make an awesome treat. Your communication is the ice cream that allows you both, the cookies, to come together and have united front. As one, with open communication, you can identify the problems, move forward together, and eventually find ways to enjoy sex again.


Once there is an open dialogue between you and your partner, you both must be open to change and have patience through the process. It might take a lot of trial and error, hardships, or misunderstandings to get to the end. On the other hand, it could be a simple and quick path to the end. In either scenario, you both need to have patience and be open to trying and accepting something new. For instance, it can be hard to accept help but sometimes a professional, like a sex therapist, may offer the insight that has been missing or that hasn’t been thought of. In some cases, your body may not work the same as it used to so implementing medical devices like a penis pump, asking your doctor about medications, or simply adding lube may be needed. This process may take some time, could get frustrating at times, and may require you to step outside your comfort zone, so being open and having patience is invaluable.  

Resources for support groups and general support

Your community is one of the best resources to find local support groups. First off, friends and family are your own personal support group, whether they’ve gone through it or not, are there for you. Having this circle of loved ones can make a big difference in your wellbeing through this process. But it can be just as helpful to have support groups outside your circle, especially since they are going through a similar experience. A good place to look is your network of peers, some may have gone through something similar, can offer their support or can direct you in the right direction. If you have a church or place of worship, ask them if they have a support group or if they know of one. Even if you do not regularly attend your church or place of worship, they will not turn you away for asking for help. Another great place to turn to find support groups is the hospital, medical center, or clinic you have received treatment from, or your regular doctor’s office. The doctors, nurses, or social workers at these places will most likely be able to point you in the right direction. In fact, many hospitals and treatment centers actually sponsor support groups for their patience.


The American Cancer Society has great search tool available for you to find your local support programs and services. Their programs and support groups are free, and they can also, help connect you to other free or low-cost local resources. Their goal for these programs and services is to “help people with cancer and their loved ones understand cancer, manage their lives through treatment and recovery, and find the emotional support they need.”  Follow the link, here, to find your local programs or to learn more. You can also call their cancer helpline at: 800-227-2345


Cancer.Net, Doctor Approved Patient Information from ASCO, is another great resource to find support groups and services. They have a ton of organizations with their contact information that offer support and services to people with cancer and their families. To take it a step further they have a section in which you can search for groups and services based on your specific type of cancer. Not only do they provide resources to find support elsewhere, they also have their own information available to help you through this time. Follow the link, here, to get to their support group page and to learn more. 


If you do not want to meet face to face there are support groups online through social media, chat rooms, listservs, webinars, and even moderated discussion groups. There are also, telephone support groups, which work similar to a conference call, as in everyone calls into one line and are connected to one another to share their experiences.


The National Cancer Institute has a lot of good information and resources for anyone affected by cancer. To name a few, they have support for caregivers, coping with cancer (feelings, adjustments, self-image, etc.), research that is being done, information on the types of cancer, a Live online chat, and so much more. Visit them here, or give them a call at 1-800-4-Cancer


Some good forums for people with cancer, survivors of cancer, and their loved ones and caregivers are:

  • HealingWell.com, you kind find a good forum for breast cancer and prostate cancer here. https://www.healingwell.com/community/default.aspx?c=4
  • MacMillan Cancer Support, not only has a lot of great information and resources relating to cancer, but they also have a great online community. The link that will be given here, takes you to the online community-groups section, where you can choose your type of cancer and it will take you to that specific support group. For instance, if you have bladder cancer, the forum is “A place for people affected by bladder cancer to support one another, ask questions, and share their experiences.” Here is the link to their online community: https://community.macmillan.org.uk/groups/
  • HealthBoards, uses anonymous usernames and prides itself on peer support. Follow this link to check them out: https://www.healthboards.com/boards/cancers/
  • The Cancer Forums, they allow you to make a public profile page or you can be anonymous and they also provide information on other related topics, like radiation treatments and erectile disfunction. Check them out here: https://www.cancerforums.net/forums/5-Specific-Cancers
  • Cancer Compass, this site allows you to create a profile, gain access to message boards and forums, get weekly email updates, and they have information and updates on the latest news and research in the field. Moreover, they have boards and resources on treatment, nutrition, prevention, caregivers, diagnosis, clinical trials, and more. Check them out here: https://www.cancercompass.com/message-board/cancers/1,0,119.htm
  • American Cancer Society, I have already discussed them above but here is the direct link to their forums: https://csn.cancer.org/forum
  • Patient, provides you with evidence-based research, information on medicines, drugs, surgeons, and treatments, blogs, and they have a decision aid tool to help guide your treatment plan. A unique thing about this site is that you get badges and other accolades to helping fellow members. They also have forums and information on just about every health condition. Check out this site, here: https://patient.info/forums/categories/cancer-7
  • Google “insert type of cancer” support groups near me, this will give you a lot of good, local organizations that can help. It will also provide additional information and resources that can help you learn more.
 
Know that you’re not alone, and there are a lot of great resources out there to help you through this journey. Again, this was meant to offer resources to find forums and support groups and offer advice. The advice may not work for everyone but will hopefully help.