"You won't feel weird anymore, like somebody from another planet."(ISTOCKPHOTO)You may be surprisedespecially if you're not usually much of a joinerhow much support groups can help you through breast cancer. Cancer brings up all kinds of new issues and anxieties that your friends or family may have no experience with.
"I don't know how many people I hear say, 'Oh, I feel so relieved to talk about thisl felt so awkward telling my husband or friends or mother,' " says Merijane Block, 55, who facilitates the Bay Area Young Survivors (BAYS) support group (baysnet.org) in San Francisco and has lived with breast cancer since her first diagnosis in 1991. "You won't feel weird anymore, like somebody from another planet." Many women are heartened simply to be in the presence of so many women who've weathered breast cancer and gone forward with their lives.
Some women put up lots of resistance to the idea of joining a breast cancer support group.
When 54-year-old Pam Tazioli of Seattle was diagnosed, she brought her cousin Kai along with her to many of her key appointments and followed her advice because Kai had been through it herself some years before. But when Kai suggested that Tazioli join a support group, Tazioli declined. "She said, 'You need to join.' I said, 'No, I don't, I'm fine.' She said, 'Yeah, you really do.' "
Finally, Tazioli gave in, but not without a touch of sarcasm. "Oh, right, I'm gonna go there and cryI don't need to do that," she remembers saying. It turns out Kai was right. Seven years after her diagnosis, Tazioli sees it as one of the best choices she made. You forget, she says, that breast cancer "is an emotional disease as well as a physical one."
Michelle, 49, from Columbus, Ohio, was also apprehensive. After being diagnosed with DCIS, she had chosen to have a bilateral mastectomy and to forgo reconstructionboth controversial choices for many women.
She worried how her support group would react, until she found out that the leaders of the group had actually made the same choices. What does she get out of the meetings? "I'm constantly inspired meeting other survivors," says Michelle, "and it gives me the chance to help other people, too."
For more information on finding support, visit our support groups web guide.