Thinking of starting your own cancer support group? That could be a great way to meet other people walking the same journey, and is often a source of lifelong friendships.

First, check with your local hospital or clinic to see what is available there. And look into local cancer organizations— offers ideas on finding nearby resources.

If you have checked out local support groups and haven’t found what you need, it might be time to consider starting your own. It takes time, commitment, and organization. But it can be well worth it.

Some support groups are more structured than others. Some things to consider:

How often do you want to meet? And for how long? Monthly usually works well—the first Tuesday or something like that, so people can remember. A couple of hours is usually enough.
Will you have the same structure for each meeting? You can plan something loose—first a speaker or a presentation, then some organized discussion.
What local speakers are available? A dietitian at the local grocery chain can be a great speaker on diet. An oncology nurse or a nurse navigator can talk about follow-up treatment. A psychologist or social worker can speak about managing fear of recurrence. And women who have gone through the cancer journey themselves can be powerful motivators.
How do you keep the discussion on topic enough, but loose enough to allow people to talk and share? This is probably the trickiest. Groups can too easily devolve into negativity, and dominant personalities have to be managed. So you really need to have a moderator who introduces a general theme of discussion and allows people to speak but not dominate. The moderator needs to know that she is there to help others discuss—not to blabber on herself (a common problem with beginning moderators.)
And always try to end on a positive note. Have somebody in charge of a final comment—a poem, a quote, a short anecdote—that leaves people hopeful. Too many people leave too many support groups sad and depressed. They’ll not want to return for more of that–nor should they.
If you need help starting a group, or are looking for a speaker, contact me. I have managed many, many, many groups in my career and have spoken on diverse topics–diet and nutrition, writing as therapy, maintaining a positive attitude, taking care of the Entire You. I’d love to help.

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