Support Group Sessions…Yes, No, Maybe

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To the Editor:

As part of Breast Cancer Month the concept of support groups as a necessary means to the wellness of cancer patients can sometimes have a negative allusion — not in the case of those many patients who have attended our local cancer support group at the Mesquite Cancer HELP Society “MCHS”.  I had my husband; he worked countless hours, my sons lived and worked out of state and the same applied to my sisters; I chose not to rely on them for much and minimized any support.  Making the right decision as to how much we sometimes want to tell family can be very difficult.

When one is dealing with cancer, lost and not knowing where to turn, due to the lack of information and guidance, the result is frustration, depression, and countless negative thoughts.

I turned to a support group outside of Mesquite but it was not for me; it left me with mixed feelings and unsure of what I really needed to calm me – maybe a miracle.

Going to another support group was not an option. The months passed and the stress/anxiety, and negativity grew – there was no place to turn to locally, no face-to-face with someone who could relate and no one-on-one communication.  It eventually realized that cancer patients did need a support group.  However, they needed options; to be and feel a part of a group that could not only share and learn something valuable from each other but a group that felt like family where family, at times, was not easily accessible or even too close to fully understand the extent of a patient’s emotional, mental or physical state.  You have heard it said countless times that it is sometimes easier to share with an outsider than it is with family.  This is most likely because an outside connection is unbiased and conversation can be more open with greater empathy.

Creating this type of support group became the goal for the Mesquite Cancer HELP Society.  YES, support group sessions are crucial to strengthening a patient’s belief that they do not have to stand alone, and they are free to say what they find is necessary to help in the healing process.

The first session for new cancer patients at MCHS is to give them the opportunity to share their story, only, if they  choose to do so – some simply want to observe and most are often ready to open up within a half hour, or by the next session.  Patients can bring their caregiver with them if they want him/her at their side.  Caregivers are key to helping with the patient’s recovery.  Hugs, sometimes tears, and empathy are important and need to be released, then the focus on the positive begins — that of eliminating fear, negativity, and the reassurance that we are all there for one another — providing a calm that usually cannot be found elsewhere.  Many cancer patients do not know what questions to ask doctors.  At MCHS they are given the tools and learn to communicate with doctors in a manner that doctor/patient dialogue is better understood. Often these patients are too confused and stressed to step up and simply ask for clarification.  We recommend a cancer patient have a family member or close friend attend the pre-treatment office visits with them, so that person can help the patient remember what all was stated – clarification…

Recently, patients expressed their comments on how support group has or has not helped them.  Following are words or comments they made:

I do not stand alone, people in support group understand how I feel, there is empathy and contact with others who have the same type of cancer, I feel like we are family, informative, gained self confidence, I became a fighter, uplifting, I feel better about loosing my hair, very positive, fun, I’m more open and able to talk about how I feel, the knowledge is here for us to use in our journey toward survivorship. The only thing that MCHS does not help with is pity parties; they are quick to empathize and reinforce the positive…  The society will recommend and help pay for a professional outside counselor if one is needed. The final comment was, ”The cancer society gives us solace and strength in their commitment to stand with us; we do not have to cope alone”.

Many cancer patients continue to pass through Mesquite Cancer HELP Society’s doors.  One or two individuals attended sessions once, but most attend ongoing sessions until the feeling of being in charge of their health is attained, and the positive attitude is continuously reinforced.   Whether simply seeking information, a one-on-one session, need financial assistance, hospital equipment, need assistance with a flight to a cancer hospital outside the state, wigs, hats, etc., MCHS provides services like none you will find anywhere else.  The updated website for the society and its Board of Directors can be seen at

www.cancerhelpnv.com.  In it you will find an excellent section titled “cancer news”. By clicking once on any of the cancer types, you will find an abundance of reliable resources.  As in the beginning and still today, Mesquite Cancer HELP Society relies solely on events, in lieu of flowers postings, and generous personal donations from businesses and individuals for their continued operation.  You can reach their office by calling (702) 346-0622 or by visiting 150 N Yucca, #36 if you would like to pay them a friendly visit.

Yoli Bell
Mesquite

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