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Are Cancer Support Groups Online Beneficial for Patients?

The internet has opened the door for a lot of things. You can have a stranger pick up your groceries without you ever having to leave the house, you can order a thousand of those worm on a string things you see at fairs, and you can even find cancer support groups online that can help you through some of the darkest days of your life. Many cancer patients have lots of questions about these programs, as they should. It’s good to make sure that you know about what you’re getting yourself into before you make any sort of a commitment. 

These groups are generally incredibly helpful for cancer patients that are looking to find a bit of relief or support, and they come in many different packages making it easy to find a group that fits your needs the best. In fact, online cancer support groups are even more versatile than in-person cancer support groups in many cases, making them an excellent choice for people that are looking to find a support group that they’ll be able to attend at home. No matter your schedule, availability, or needs you should be able to find a group that works for you. 

Learn More About Cancer

One of the biggest reasons why people choose to go through online cancer support groups is because it makes it easier to learn a lot more about your condition. Whether you have a common type of cancer like lung cancer or something much rarer like Merkel cell carcinoma, online support groups make it a lot easier to get the information that you need to be sure that you fully understand your condition on your own terms. Cancer is one of those topics that is very well documented both online and offline, so there’s a ton of information to look through. 

The reason why online support groups have a bit of an edge over in-person support groups is that it’s less intimidating to look over articles online than it is to look through paper documents. For those of us that spend a lot of time on the internet, that statement is a no-brainer, but for those of us that don’t spend as much time online, it might not sound like it could actually be true. Let’s break it down logistically to make it make a bit more sense for those people.

Imagine someone hands you reading material about your condition. It’s not that big, about 80 pages long. It has diagrams and deep explanations about exactly what’s going on in your body because of your condition. It’s incredibly helpful, but it’s about the size of a magazine and incredibly dense with information. In one of these online cancer support groups, you’d be provided with a link to an article. The article would contain all of the same information, but instead of being the size of a magazine, it would simply scroll down until you’re done reading it. 

On top of it not looking like as much reading, online cancer support groups can easily provide you with more kinds of resources while also saving paper. Videos, podcasts, scholarly articles, opinion articles, the list goes on. The internet has all sorts of resources available to help you make sure that you really truly deeply understand your condition to the best of your ability. Understanding what’s going on can help you understand better why you need to undergo the treatments that you need to undergo, which makes it easier to be brave and do what you need to do so you can walk the path to recovery. 

For most people, we should add. Some people only get more stressed out knowing these things about their condition, which others do get a sense of hope from understanding exactly what’s going on and knowing their condition from top to bottom. You probably know best if this would be good for you, but that’s just one of the many benefits from using online cancer support groups whether on their own or in tandem with the in-person groups that you pick out for yourself to go to. This information can also be beneficial for caretakers to have. 

Find an International Community 

One of the biggest limitations of meeting in person for your cancer support group is that you’re limited to people that live in your city. That can be a good thing for a lot of people, but people that spend a lot of time online anyway might like to know that they’re getting support and being heard by other people going through the same thing as them around the world. There’s something comforting about knowing that there are other people dealing with the same thing as you on the other side of the world. 

There are lots of options for this that range in formality. You can find meetings that are done over zoom or some other video call service so you can do regularly scheduled meetings. That can be great for people that like there being structure in their support groups. There are other less tightly knit groups that people enter to find international support. One such place is Reddit’s r/Cancer subreddit. This subreddit is full of cancer patients and their caretakers looking for some support from an international community and is in a thread format. 

That simply means that if you want to use this group you just make a post with what you want to say and allow people to respond at their own pace. Sometimes you’ll get a lot of responses, sometimes you’ll get a lot less. Such is the nature of the internet. This particular subreddit starts off with a welcome message, “Hello, we’re sorry that you’re here. Please read the rules before posting.” and from there you can post anything you want as long as you follow the rules and you can get whatever you’re looking for, whether it’s support, information, or something else entirely. 

Flexible Schedules 

How to choose a support group for cancer patients that's right for you |  CTCA

If it’s 9:00 AM in Washington State, it’s 6:00 PM in France and 9:00 PM in Dubai. Why is that information useful? Because not everyone has the same sleep schedule. Of course, there are plenty of people that go to sleep at reasonable hours and wake up at reasonable hours making a 5:00 PM meeting work easily for them, but what about those of us who are entirely nocturnal? Finding a good meeting at 5:00 AM is incredibly difficult in person, but if you can find a meeting in Dubai you can attend virtually and don’t mind not being able to understand everything everyone says, unless you speak Arabic, you can get a meeting at the right time. 

Even across a single country, it’s easier to find people that are up and ready for a support group at odd hours. There might only be a handful of cancer patients or caretakers with the same sleep schedule as you in your state, but nationwide you could find a lot of people that are awake at the same time as you. That makes getting support a lot easier no matter the kind of sleep schedule you prefer keeping. 

This is very important for cancer patients because it’s already hard enough to change the way we live our lives to fit into a cancer treatment schedule that agrees with doctor office hours. At the end of the day, cancer patients don’t want to always feel like cancer patients. Sometimes they just want to feel like people, and with that comes a lot of differences in the way that we act, sleep, eat, and all sorts of other things. Different people work differently and online support groups make it easier to find a place that you fit right in. 

Getting Cancer Support in the Digital Age

People like feeling like there’s someone there to catch them when they’re falling, regardless of the reason. Getting a cancer diagnosis can be incredibly scary, regardless of if your family has a history of it or not. You can see it coming from years ahead and still be scared out of your mind about it. That’s why it’s so important to be able to find a support group that works well for you, no matter what your needs might be and what hours you might prefer to sleep.

Lots of people even supplement their in-person cancer support groups with something online so that they can be sure that they’re getting the most possible support from all angles. There are lots of solid cancer support groups on the internet to choose from in so many different formats that you’d be hard-pressed to find one that doesn’t help you at least a little bit. It doesn’t matter if you’re an early bird, night owl, or anything in between. Somewhere on the internet exists the perfect cancer support group for you, and you can be sure to find them with a quick search on the internet. 

***On the Aepios platform, members gain support from peers nationwide by sharing valuable real-world experiences, treatments, and outcomes for an expanding number of medical conditions.***