Build a Support Team You Can Trust

It may seem more natural for you to take care of others, but a cancer diagnosis tends to change roles.

When you are used to doing things for yourself, you might find it hard to ask for help. It may seem more natural for you to take care of others than to let others take care of you. But a cancer diagnosis tends to change roles—at least for a while. 

An important part of your recovery is keeping up your strength and getting the rest your body needs to heal. For that, you’re going to need the support of trusted friends or family members. You’re going to need a team. According to the American Cancer Society, having a support team can help you feel less anxious and depressed and can improve your quality of life as you go through cancer treatment. 

Some cancer survivors suggest that you only tell a few trusted people when you first get your diagnosis. This will give you a chance to get your thoughts together and will help keep you from getting swamped with phone calls you don’t feel like taking just yet. When you are ready to share the news with more people, it may help to choose a “point person” who can call or email others with updates on your care. You might also consider creating a Web page that will keep friends informed. It’s easy and free to do that through such organizations as Caring Bridge

When building your support team, think about what help means to you. Do you want someone to take you to your doctor appointments and treatments? It can be very helpful to have another set of ears when you are feeling overwhelmed. A supportive person can also help you remember symptoms you’ve had or questions you want to ask your doctor.

Maybe you want help with daily tasks like cooking, laundry and paying bills. You may need someone to help with personal care, like washing your hair or giving you a backrub. And you might want someone who can make you laugh or just divert your attention from your cancer, if even for a short time. The following link is geared for women with breast cancer, but the information is relevant to men and women with all types of cancer.

Chances are you will want all of these things at different times. Building a team of caregivers means that you won’t have to depend on just one person. A team of people can take turns with tasks. So think about who would best fill the roles, then ask them.

The people who care about you are likely feeling helpless right now. By asking for their help and giving them a specific job to do, you are actually helping them to feel useful.

Don’t be afraid to be honest about what you want—and what you don’t want, and let them know when you are tired or need some time alone.

Many people find comfort and encouragement from talking with others who share their cancer experience. Here's a list of online resources offered by the American Cancer Society

A good resource for young women who are facing breast cancer is the Young Survival Coalition

Allegiance Health has just started Lean on Me, a mentorship program that matches newly diagnosed patients with someone who has survived cancer and is willing to lend personal support. For information, call our Patient Navigator at (517) 780-7388. We also offers in-person support groups for breast cancer ((517) 789-5693) and prostate cancer ((800) 227-2345). Both groups are free and welcome new members at any time.

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