A Cancer Buddy 101
A cancer buddy is another person with the same type of cancer you have who is either going through the same thing or who has been through it.
The concept of a cancer buddy is based in the old saying that "no one knows how you feel except someone who walks in your shoes"
The advantages of a cancer buddy are:
- You have someone to talk with to share your feelings.
- The person understands.
- You likely learn practical information.
- Talking with a cancer buddy can make things less scary.
- You get to feel good because you help your buddy.
A cancer buddy does not have to live in the same area you do. The key is to be able to make contact with the person on a regular basis, when you want to. Contact can occur in person, on the telephone, and/or over the internet.
If the person you think of as a cancer buddy no fills your needs or makes you feel worse, move on to another person until you find the right buddy for you. This is easy to say. It may not be easy to do if the two of you have bonded. However, the idea of a buddy is to help you get by. If you decide to continue to be a buddy for the person's benefit instead of your own, that's okay too. Just be sure your needs get met.
You can find a cancer buddy through:
- For people with breast cancer or ovarian cancer: www.sharecancersupport.org , Tel.: 866.891.2392
- For people with colorectal cancer (anal, colon, rectal): Colon Cancer Alliance at www.ccalliance.org , or call 877.422.2030
- For people with lung cancer: Lung Cancer Alliance : Tel. 800.298.2436.
- For people with any type of cancer:
- Your oncologist or his or her office staff.
- An oncology social worker.
- A local or national disease specific non-profit organization.
- A support or self help group
- The following national non-profit groups make connections between individuals with simliar experiences:
The article in "To Learn More" provides information on what to look for in a buddy.
Young men and women: Consider checking out organizations devoted to young people with cancer. For instance:
- I'm Too Young For This! Cancer Foundation, see: www.I2y.org
- Planet Cancer, see: www.PlanetCancer.org
- The Ulman Cancer Fund For Young Adults, see: www.UlmanFund.org
NOTE: Additional tools to consider to help you through the colorectal experience are the following. Information about each is in the documents in "To Learn More."
- Consider joining a support group or a self help group of other men and women with your type of cancer. A support group is a group of people with a similar situation, led by a professional. A self help group is the same except members run the group. In addition to emotional support, members learn practical information. (For some people, the practical information to be learned is the most important part of a support group.) There are all kinds of groups, including groups of people who are in treatment.
- If you get stuck in a down mode, there are a variety of alternatives to help when depression interferes with your daily life. A good place to start is to talk with your doctor. He or she may prescribe anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medications, or recommend that you speak with a mental health professional - or both. Professional mental counseling adds an additional person to help sort through your feelings. Counseling can be done in person, on the telephone, or even on line. Professional therapists include social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists. Psychological counseling is now covered by most health insurance. If your insurance does not cover, or if you do not have insurance, many therapists work on a sliding scale which is set according to your means. (For information about depression, click here.)
- Consider getting a pet if you don't have one. Pets are good for emotional health and have been shown to increase longevity. The pet does not have to be a dog or a cat, and it doesn't have to be an attention-requiring puppy or kitten. (To learn about pets and your health condition, click here.)
- Do whatever has helped you in the past. Think about the techniques you used in the past to get through difficult emotional periods. If the technique worked before, it is likely to work again.