Support groups tell patients and caregivers, “You’re not alone.”

When a patient is diagnosed with a serious condition such as cancer, they often feel isolated from friends and coworkers. Friends and family are sympathetic, but unless they’ve had the disease themselves, they can’t really know what the patient is going through. That’s when support groups can be so critical for emotional backup.

Covenant HealthCare’s Alison VanNorman, a social worker with 40+ years of experience, talked with WNEM-TV’s Medical Moments about the importance of support groups for both patients and their caregivers.

Support group benefits

  • Relief of isolation. The first benefit, as we mentioned earlier, is realizing that you’re not alone. VanNorman points out that when someone is dealing with the fear and anxiety of a cancer diagnosis, they don’t realize how universal their feelings are. “Sometimes you feel it’s just you,” she says.
  • A safe space to express feelings. Patients are often more comfortable expressing fears, doubts and struggles to fellow patients than to family or friends. Likewise, caregivers who may normally feel guilty discussing the difficulty of their role may feel more comfortable in a group setting. “Caregivers have unique and special needs,” says VanNorman. She stresses that caregivers are welcome at all Covenant support groups.
  • Hope. Seeing others who are farther along in their journey and handling it well can give patients hope for the future. VanNorman says that all cancer patients are termed “cancer survivors” as soon as they are diagnosed; “I think that’s really inspiring.”

Support groups at Covenant

Covenant has a variety of support groups for patients and caregivers who are dealing with cancer as well as other serious conditions. All support groups are free of charge, even for those who are not Covenant patients.

Cancer support groups

  • Coping with Cancer – A daytime support group for all cancer patients/survivors and caregivers.
  • Living with Cancer (Frankenmuth) – An evening support group for all cancer patients/survivors and caregivers.
  • Women’s Cancer Support – An evening support group for female cancer patients/survivors.
  • Young Women’s Cancer Support – An evening support group for younger female cancer patients/survivors (suggested age 45 or under).
  • S.P.O.H.N.C. - Saginaw Chapter – A support group for survivors with oral, head, and neck cancer and their caregivers.

Other support groups

  • Better Breathers Pulmonary Support – A support group for pulmonary patients and caregivers.
  • Stroke Support – A monthly support group for stroke survivors and their families.
  • Spousal Loss – A six-week series supporting grieving spouses in the first year of loss.

Group activities

In addition to support groups, Covenant also offers exercise classes for cancer patients/survivors, including a beginners’ exercise class and a yoga class. For dates, times and other information, go to our Events page.

You can find additional support services for cancer patients/survivors here.

If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer or another serious illness, don’t go it alone; reach out and find a support group. “Just because you have cancer, doesn’t mean you have to put yourself in a corner,” VanNorman says. Sometimes the empathy of others can be just the medicine you need.

Posted Date: 10/8/2018


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