Support Groups

"Ask not how long you have to live. Ask what you can do to help yourself live longer."
- John F. Kennedy

Support groups are organizations that provide the necessary information and offer emotional support through counseling to individuals afflicted with a disease, such as cancer, and also to their families.

There are certain diseases that impacts lives physically, emotionally and socially. They are synonymous with a gamut of feelings like shock, pain, fear, anxiety, denial, guilt, frustration, and hopelessness. Cancer is one such illness that permanently alters the lives of the affected individuals and those of their loved ones.

It may be tricky to identify the symptoms of some diseases and to execute a timely diagnosis. Waiting for the diagnosis of terminal illnesses, after giving the appropriate tests, is emotionally and psychologically challenging, both for the patients and for their dear ones.

However, reaching the right diagnosis and undergoing the appropriate treatment is paramount to conquering the maladies life may seem to 'stop in its track' for an individual who is diagnosed with certain illnesses, such as cancer, so it always helps to have the sympathetic support of friends and family. This is particularly so, while going to the doctor's office to hear a test result or while being counseled about the treatment or after-care.

Once a disease is diagnosed, prognosis is next on the patient's mind. It will also help to remember that doctors are not equipped with the ability to prophesize the patient's life span, although they may arrive at a prognosis based on prior statistics. Every individual responds differently to the various treatment options. In the past decade, there has been plenty of explosive research in the field of medicine, especially related to cancer. As a result, treatment options have increased and statistical estimates have changed. It must be realized that malignancies, in general, are more curable today than they were ever before. Leading a normal life with 'the great disease' is a possibility.

More often patients diagnosed with a malignancy tend to feel stigmatized or isolated. The vast majority of these patients feel that dealing with the physical aspects of the disease is easier than dealing with the emotional aspects. Many feel that their emotional needs have not been addressed on par with their physical needs. Half of these patients experience depression while an overwhelming majority (75%) suffers from acute anxiety. Relationships come under the scanner, and it is not uncommon for individuals diagnosed with a malignancy to undergo separation.

There are scores of patients who go without the information support or advice that can be provided by a support group. Interacting with a support group equips a patient with the information about his condition, hones his positive energy and provides him the succor to meet everyday challenges. It becomes highly likely that the individual feels less abandoned, which is a sure way to kick start his recovery. It may take a while before he accepts his condition and his permanently altered life style. Once acceptance sets in, it may become easier to cope with the disease and to focus on ways to lead a normal life, besides setting sights on the future!

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