I’ve just gotten back from my very first support group. My feelings are mixed, much like they were before going.
Now – okay, fair enough. You might ask, ‘Hey Catherine, why are you scared of support groups when this entire website is one giant support system?’ And you’d be totally justified. And then you might wonder if it’s because I can’t handle ‘real life’ encounters, or maybe I’m anti-social? Or hey, just for fun, I could actually be a 45 year old man scratching his hairy belly and sipping a diet soda, blogging about breast cancer.
But let me reassure you, I hate diet soda.
And no, I am not anti-social (though, I am pro quiet and calm). In fact, I love one-on-ones with other people who have travelled a similar road, and think that meeting and sharing ideas is fantastic.
So then you may ask, why do you like going online for support? How come an online support system is easier to enjoy than real life?
Honestly, it’s not always easier. I just know that when I turn on my computer, I can pick and choose the content suitable content for that moment, on that day (be it forums, news pages, gmail, twitter, blogs, whatever). And alternatively I can escape it all with the click of a button. Or at least, I can escape the flood of information, even if the haunting never quite fades (at least, not yet. I’m still very hopeful to move beyond the ghost of cancer’s past.)
I love Facing Cancer Together because of its tag line (and the pretty colours): “for everything else you’re going through with cancer.” So there’s the surgery, diagnosis, treatment and it’s literally all consuming – but alongside that is the fear, relationship strains, family obligations, that constant need to find a purpose in the madness . . . and then, that hope of looking forward. Relearning how to live post trauma. Not letting illness rule your everyday life. I love this website because while it’s a port in the storm, it’s also a place to start looking beyond cancer. Just check out the blogs. Both Sides is using art and poetry to work ahead, Terri is off chasing her big hairy dream, Katie is acting upon her advocacy dreams, Sherry inspires with her survivorship , Sandy’s giving tips for positive living, and Live is helping us to laugh.
So when life starts getting black, and the helplessness bubbles (and it does bubble, just look at the forums. People reach out, and they really need to communicate, even if it’s often under an alias – sharing helps the pressure release.) I know this is a place to come, relate, and leave uplifted. Whether it’s through a friend reaching out and leaving comments, or a new blog post, or a response from the Question of the Week.
I like knowing what to expect when arriving here.
But then throw me into a live mix of women and anything can happen. Today it was introductions and diving into our treatments. Next time will it be the same? Am I going to cry? Will we talk about the emotional trials? Maybe we’ll touch upon our non-cancer lives? I don’t know, and that freaks me out a little. But one thing is certain, while cancer is cancer I often find it helps to just talk ‘about everything else’ as opposed to pounding hard on the life-threatening experience.
Mind you, that’s always the starting point, isn’t it? Talking about a cancer diagnosis is to patients what sniffing butts is to dogs. A starting point.
So what happens next? I wonder.
Today at the MapleSoft Centre in Ottawa, I met four other young and lovely women who have lived through (are living through) cancer. My feelings are still mixed about attending a group, but that’s in regards to my own issues, and not theirs. Maybe I’m not a support-group kinda girl? I guess that would be okay too. But maybe I am? (I’m certainly a cup of tea at Starbucks kinda girl, which is almost like a support group, but in my opinion possibly more fun due to funky decor and free pumpkin spice latte samples.) We’ll see. Sometimes these things need a chance to grow. Like my hair. Certainly it’s a great idea and fascinating to meet other women my own age, fighting through similar battles. We will see.
P.S. The conference went really well. The nurses who attended seemed to enjoy the roller coaster analogy I used to describe getting treatment. Hmm, I sense another post topic for the future: Roller coaster riding and the patient experience. Get ready to raise your arms and scream.