For many people with cancer, connecting with others provides emotional support and inspiration during this challenging time. Whether it's joining a support group, finding a support buddy, or getting help from an oncology social worker, there are several options to try to get the help that's right for you. What might also help is to join an online community where you can connect with others. Joining an online community also makes it easier to keep friends and family updated on your situation.
Online communities, or social networking sites, let you create a personal profile where you share information about yourself for others to view. You choose whom to invite or allow access to your profile. The purpose of social networking is to make it easier to stay in touch with family and friends and to connect with people who share common interests or who are in a similar life situation. Online communities help people with cancer who live far from a support group that meets at a treatment center or other physical location, and give people who don't like face-to-face groups another option to connect with others.
In an online community, you can post a picture or video of yourself and share updates with people in your network whenever you choose. You are free to decide how much information you are comfortable sharing with others. Several sites offer privacy settings and tools, which let you control who can view your profile and what they can see or read. When creating a profile, it's helpful to learn about these various privacy settings and options the site offers so that you will feel more comfortable when sharing your profile.
Sharing stories with other people in an online community may help you learn about treatment options and other matters, such as side effects. While sharing these experiences is helpful, keep in mind that only your doctor can give you the best advice for your type of cancer and situation, and that your experience with side effects may differ.
If you have you thought about joining an online community, here are a few options.
4th Angel Mentoring Program provides free and confidential telephone support to cancer patients and their caregivers. Trained mentors who are cancer survivors or have been a caregiver to a cancer patient, offer support and guidance during a very difficult time.
Inspire. This online health and wellness community features more than 50 groups for people with cancer and their caregivers. You can also join groups for other health conditions besides cancer. Once you join a group, you can post questions and comments on discussion boards and connect with other group members. Help other members and give encouragement by responding to their stories and questions. Several patient advocate organizations feature support communities on Inspire, such as the Lung Cancer Alliance Survivors Support Community and the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance Support Community.
My Cancer Circle is an online community for cancer caregivers. This community provides the tools and resources for family and friends taking on the role of caregiver for a loved one.
MyLifeLine.org. Do you find it difficult to keep up with calls and e-mails from people concerned about you? In this online community for people with cancer, create a free web page to share details about your journey to keep family and friends updated. Sharing a web page helps reduce the number of times you have to repeat similar conversations to people concerned about you. A calendar on the site helps you keep track of doctor and treatment visits and other important appointments. Plus, you can post requests for help, such as rides to appointments or babysitting.
Lotsa Helping Hands. If you are a primary caregiver, managing offers of help from others can be stressful and time-consuming. This online community helps you coordinate caregiving tasks among family members and friends. Simply fill in requests for help on a group calendar for visitors to sign up to help. For example, post the dates and times that a ride is needed to and from treatment or mark a time when help is needed with grocery shopping. It's also easy to keep others updated on the person you are caring for.
CaringBridge. Create a free web page where you give updates in a patient care journal, share pictures, and invite visitors to write messages in a guestbook. Visitors can also learn about the disease or condition that their friend or family member is coping with. CaringBridge works with many hospitals and treatment centers to offer the service, so ask whether CaringBridge is available at the facility. If not, you can still create a free page by visiting the CaringBridge website.
CarePages. This service also lets you publish a free web page to post updates and messages to family and friends, share photos, receive encouraging messages, and connect with others coping with a similar situation. Several discussion forums and blogs offer help for patients on several topics, such as living with cancer and taking care of your emotional health.
Friend for Life Cancer Support Network is a network of cancer survivors and caregivers who provide compassionate, one-on-one support to others diagnosed with cancer, and to their loved ones.
Know Cancer is dedicated to connecting, educating and empowering all people affected by the many forms of cancer. Through the power of knowledge and collective wisdom they will help people to prevent, endure and survive cancer. Their current focus is KnowCancer.com, an online community that provides social and professional support to patients and their loved ones.
Navigating Cancer's vision is to empower cancer patients to navigate their best care. Navigating Cancer is a free website specifically for cancer patients and their supporters, offering tools and authoritative cancer resources that empower patients to take control of their health and partner more closely with their physicians, support network and other like patients.
Peer Support Network is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization providing Internet-based peer support services for newly diagnosed cancer patients, cancer survivors and their caregivers coping with the emotional and physical challenges of a cancer diagnosis. Our free, global network connects people impacted by cancer with others that have undergone similar experiences and is available to anyone seeking or offering support.
TalkAboutHealth is a cancer question and answer web site that provides personalized, helpful, and accurate health answers. Their mission is to improve people's lives by connecting them with the right people and information they need for support in managing their health.
More online options
In addition to social networking sites, many patient advocate organizations offer online support services, such as discussion forums and chat rooms. Get a list of patient information resources to find out what online support services they offer.
Last Updated: May 08, 2012