Joining a Support Community: Timing is Everything
Being a part of a blood cancer community is not something I ever thought I would do. I actually stayed far away from support groups when I was in active treatment for my non-Hodgkin lymphoma and after I was in remission for a while. But then something changed.
At first, support groups weren't for me
I had friends suggest I join a cancer support group. In my mind, I pictured all of us sick people in a room in a gymnasium in a sad little circle praising God and talking about our feelings. No thank you. I was forced into therapy as a child and I didn’t want to feel like I had to do it again. So I didn’t. For many years, I stayed far away. Then I heard about Health Union.
It had been some time since I was in remission. A friend’s roommate had told me about the company and I reached out. For the first time, I had an opportunity to help people instead of focusing on my problems with the disease. I guess that's the difference I needed. I didn’t have to talk about myself to strangers but I could listen to them vent. It was a great way for me to give back. I felt like most of the time I was sick I wasn’t understood or validated. I never wanted anyone else to feel as helpless, scared, or frustrated as I did. And thus began my relationship with this community.
Would a support community have helped me back then?
Short answer yes, immensely. But I don’t know if I still would have been open to it at that point. Support groups scared me. It sounds silly, but they did. I’m all for them now because I’ve seen how they can normalize us and what we’re going through. Even now, seeing what other people have or are going through shows me that everything I went through that I thought was me just being crazy, really wasn’t and was a totally normal experience for what my situation was. It feels wonderful to give back. I’m actually able to help people.
Now I recommend support groups
Obviously, my view on support groups has changed. Not only what they are capable of being, but how helpful they can be to people. I would absolutely recommend them and I have. I’ve also unlearned this negative association with therapy. Therapy still isn’t for everyone but it can be immensely helpful. I’ve started going again (for unrelated things) and it’s had a positive impact on my everyday life and relationships.
I still have a long way to go though, but that’s ok. I hope that those of you who are on the fence like I was can find this article helpful. Please don’t feel like you have to force yourself into anything, but at the same time, try to keep an open mind. Look around the site, read what people say and how they interact with each other.
We don’t have to think of ourselves as patients if we don’t want to. I like to think of us as a family, or some people have mentioned the word tribe here. I like that too.
Warm wishes, Katelynn
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