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Published on May 18, 2017

Come, Just Once

May 18, 2017

woman hugging each other“Don’t do it alone,” I often tell patients who have never attended a support group and then I follow up with, “come, just once”.

Cancer patients often feel isolated and alone when they are diagnosed with cancer even with good family support. Alice, one of our support group participants and a breast cancer survivor says it like this, “My family loves me very much and they are there for me, but they just don’t get it.”

The support groups at Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital Cancer Center incorporate fun and sharing by going out on luncheons, having game nights, attending plays, going bowling, attend NIU games (often with patient recognition), going on field trips, and having professional speakers come and talk on topics of patient interest. Participants cry. Often sharing how scary a cancer diagnosis is and the fear it holds. But together they find a place and a way to live well even during those times they do not feel well. Physically or emotionally. The sole purpose of everything the group does is to not “do it alone”. 

Group participants even meet outside of group for coffee, at someone’s home, make visits to other participants who are not able to get out, or make a hospital visit. Participants drive others who cannot drive to doctor appointments or shopping or group meetings or outings. I can honestly say, “It’s a family.” The group also talks a lot, sharing experiences and stories of their journey with cancer through all stages. But it doesn’t stop there. They talk about who they were before cancer. Once I had everyone bring in a poster board of their life in pictures. It’s was awesome. Each one held up their board and talked to the group about each picture. It was exciting for all to learn and see the lives of others even 25 years past. But more so, it was precious to hear how each talked about their life and how others listened and cared. We even set up a gallery in the classroom and staff from the cancer center were invited and each participant talked about their board of pictures as staff passed by one by one. They were getting to be known not just for being a cancer patient but for who they were as a person.

My passion for leading the groups at Kishwaukee Hospital Cancer Center is for the groups to hold a place of belonging, friendship and acceptance. I always say that once you visit one of our groups for the first time the group makes sure you leave feeling like you have always belonged. Participants have told me the groups at Kishwaukee Hospital Cancer Center are some of the most different and caring places they have experienced since being diagnosed with cancer.

If you are considering coming to a cancer support group, I say, “come, just once”. You just might find a place you never knew existed just for you. 

Vickie Peyton MSW, LCSW
Oncology Social Worker

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