Thursday, March 5, 2009

Why Are Patient Groups Important?

As you adjust to life with a cancer diagnosis, you should prioritize taking good care of yourself. This means eating healthy foods, getting enough rest, and following your doctor's advice. However, taking good care of yourself is more than just paying attention to your physical concerns. It is just as important that you pay attention to your emotional health.

One way to support your emotional health is to join a patient group, or patient support group.

What is a patient group?
A patient group is any group of people that comes together to help each other. Patients AND caregivers can participate in patient groups. Sometimes, there are special groups just for patients or just for caregivers, and sometimes patient groups are a mix of both patients and caregivers.

Patient grups can be helpful in many different ways:

Practical Information
Sometimes, talking with other patients and caregivers can be very educational. Other patients can share information they have learned, including their own personal experiences. Often times, patient groups will organize lectures or question and answer sessions with cancer experts. These are great opportunities to educate yourself and learn more about your diagnosis and treatment.

Practical Help
You may be experiencing other types of dificulties, like financial issues or legal issues. A patient group can give you a place to brainstorm with others, and find potential solutions. The group can also help you to organize fundraising events.

A Support Network
A patient group can offer a support network of people who understand. Whle every patient's experience is different, chances are you will find someone else who has many things in common with you. It will be helpful to talk to other people who can relate to you. Often, it can relieve your anxieties. You may find it very helpful to have a group of people to talk to outside of your usual circle of family and friends.

Sharing Experiences
A patient group can be a place to share experiences with others, both good and bad. Listening to others talk about their stories can be a big relief to some patients, because it can make you feel less alone. A patient group is a great place to talk not only about your hopes, but your fears, as well.

Patient groups are a great source of peer support. It teaches us not only that we can rely on each other, but that being a support to others can be very satisfying. Sharing your own sotry with others can ease their worries, and give people hope. It may be useful to remember that "helping you helps me."

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