The Power of Peer Support
During my cancer journey, I relied heavily on peer support. I needed to vent my feelings to someone who knew exactly what I was going through. I needed advice from young patients who walked this path before and understood the obstacles and emotional strain I dealt with on a daily basis. I obviously had unconditional support from my family and loved ones, but they just couldn’t relate to this time in my life.
I think the social needs of young adults are much stronger than those of an older patient population. More often than not, we look to our friends for encouragement. It’s important to know that there are resources out there to help us find this much-needed camaraderie.
Here are four programs that really helped me throughout my cancer journey:
Breastcancer.org: Breastcancer.org offers several discussion boards, categorized by age group and topic, that allow for candid conversation about any aspect of your cancer journey. I got helpful advice from doctors, survivors and patients on everything from coping strategies to shampoo brands for sensitive skin.
Fighting Pretty: Fighting Pretty is a non-profit organization that helps women feel strong and beautiful during treatment. Founder, Kara Dolce, was diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age and went through several rounds of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and hormonal therapy. With a small donation, this organization puts together a personalized "pretty package" of unique cosmetic and inspirational items that are guaranteed to lift your spirits. But the most touching aspect of the pretty package is the hand-written letter by Kara herself.
Roswell Park’s Young Adult Cancer Program: Roswell Park's YA program organizes happy hours, Bisons games, paint nights, concerts, ice skating, cooking lessons, etc. to connect young adult patients and survivors. They also host monthly support group sessions and a yearly retreat. I always get great advice on number of cancer related concerns, but there is no pressure to talk about cancer. Sometimes we just enjoy each other’s company and try to forget about our diagnosis.
Young Survival Coalition: The Young Survival Coalition is a non-profit organization that helps cancer patients deal with critical issues. They offer several ways to connect with other survivors including online community forums, video support groups, private Facebook groups, face-to-face meet-ups and personalized mentoring.