Whether you’re an aspiring artist, writer, or cancer patient, support groups can offer encouragement and resources to help you on the journey. This week at TheONC, I write about unexpected pitfalls of support groups, and how to spot a healthy one in my post Support Groups: In Sickness and In Health.
Last week, TheONC posted my blog, Controlling Our Own Image. Identity is a theme I work with often both in paint, and words. I have some strong thoughts that it’s time nurses create the image we want the media to portray. The post received a flurry of well thought out comments. If you’re not a writer or artist, it’s worth thinking about how you can improve the image of nursing in your own practice.
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Happy Nurses Week!
I went to a support group once when I was going through treatment. I HATED IT. HATED. For one, it seemed that several people there over-identified with their cancer treatment. One man even introduced himself as, “Hi, I’m Non-Hodkins Lymphoma.” YIKES. I’ve never wanted to claim cancer as my own and it freaked me out that someone else did.
Another thing that sent me reeling is that until that point, I’d just assumed that cancer was a 6 week treatment in my life–kind of like here today and gone tomorrow. Suddenly, I was faced with a room full of people that had been struggling with cancer, multiple forms, multiple times, for double digit years. I wasn’t prepared for that. (THankfully, 4+ years out, it has been like I’d hoped!)
I think the biggest thing, though, was that I had a wonderful support system with my friends and family. Although they didn’t totally understand (as none of them had had cancer or been seriously sick), they were all super supportive, took time off work to help me, rallied around me, brought me food, tracked my meds, brought their violin to treatments and played for me. One even shaved her head. All of this kept me in a place where I never felt the need to have to bond and identify with strangers facing the same or similar journeys.
Having said all that, however, I did take GREAT comfort in having you on my watch. There was a certain ‘something’ which I couldn’t ever put words to, but which gave me great comfort, by the fact that you’d be there, done that, and come out on the other side.
You experiences echoes those of other people I’ve talked with. I didn’t expect the negative comments. I think it points out a disconnect between what nurses think support groups provide for our patients and what they patients experience. As you did, I found support during my cancer treatment within my circle of family and friends. Giving back by providing support for other adults with cancer was one of the reasons I changed specialties from PICU nursing to oncology.I was lucky to meet you, and your delightful friends.
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