Finding a Support Buddy

For many people, a diagnosis of cancer may bring complicated feelings such as fear, anger, and sadness. Most family members and friends are eager to offer their help and support. For some people, though, talking openly about cancer with someone who has never had the disease can be difficult. Support groups are a good place to connect with other people coping with cancer. What might also help is connecting with a survivor of the same type of cancer—someone who has already faced the same issues that you are facing. Fortunately, many organizations offer “buddy programs” that match you with a survivor of the same type of cancer so that you can get one-on-one support throughout your cancer treatment.

Friend for Life Cancer Support Network. Volunteers at this organization are cancer survivors and caregivers who are trained by healthcare professionals to provide one-on-one emotional and psychological support to those who received a cancer diagnosis. Callers are matched with a volunteer by cancer diagnosis and course of treatment. Friend for Life has well over 200 volunteers to assist callers. To be matched with a volunteer, call FFL at 866-374-3634.

Imerman Angels. This organization offers a free service that matches a person with cancer with someone who has completed treatment for the same type of cancer. The service aims to bring together two people with other traits in common, such as age, gender, geographic location, or anything else important to the person with cancer. Once the introduction is made, you and your buddy are free to shape the relationship as you wish. Some pairs meet and talk in person, while others talk by phone or exchange e-mails. Imerman Angels helps caregivers, too, by matching them with another caregiver to receive emotional support and encouragement. To be matched with a buddy, call Imerman Angels at 877-274-5529.

American Cancer Society programs

The American Cancer Society (ACS) offers several ways to connect people with cancer.

Reach to Recovery. This program connects men and women coping with breast cancer with those who are breast cancer survivors. These volunteers provide emotional support to people diagnosed with any stage of breast cancer, from those concerned about a possible diagnosis to long-term survivors of breast cancer. Volunteers receive training in advance. Participants are offered information on lumpectomy, mastectomy, breast reconstruction, lymphedema (buildup of fluid in the arms or legs), and recurrence (return of cancer). Some volunteers may also offer a temporary breast form and information on permanent breast prostheses. To learn more about Reach to Recovery, call ACS at 800-ACS-2345 (800-227-2345).

Man to Man. Through this free program, men coping with prostate cancer can connect with volunteers who are prostate cancer survivors. Volunteers arrange monthly meetings in local communities where speakers talk about treatment options, side effects, and offer tips on coping. In some local groups, one-on-one visitation with a prostate cancer survivor may be available. Some local groups also invite the partners of men coping with prostate cancer to the support meetings. Or, partners meet separately in a group called Side by Side. To locate a Man to Man group in your area, call the ACS at 800-227-2345.

Cancer-specific groups

Another option to find a support buddy who has gone through the same type of cancer is to contact organizations that focus on a specific type of cancer. Here are some examples of cancer-specific organizations that offer buddy programs:

Colon Cancer Alliance. Survivors in this group's buddy program offer emotional support, share personal stories, and listen to people coping with colorectal cancer. People with cancer and their families learn about treatment, side effects, and other important issues, such as living with a colostomy (a surgical opening, or stoma, through which the colon is connected to the abdominal surface to provide a pathway for waste to exit the body). Once people with colorectal cancer are matched with a buddy, the pair is free to shape the relationship and choose the method and frequency of communication. To learn more about the program, call the Colon Cancer Alliance at 877-422-2030.

Lung Cancer Alliance. This organization provides a phone buddy program that matches people living with lung cancer with volunteers who have completed or are going through lung cancer treatment. Volunteers receive training and have access to all of the Lung Cancer Alliance's resources. Caregivers and family members also can be matched with a buddy coping with a similar situation. Contact the Lung Cancer Alliance at 800-298-2436 for more information.

Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s Survivor and Caregiver Network. The Survivor and Caregiver Network is made up of pancreatic cancer survivors and caregivers who are available over phone or email to offer encouragement and support. These volunteers communicate with those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and their loved ones, offering a safe space to ask questions and share stories. Find out more about how to get involved in this program by calling 877-272-6226.

Young adults

Young adults with cancer may find it challenging to find and connect with someone their own age who has faced a similar type of cancer. Here are some options:

The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults. This organization partners with Imerman Angels to offer a Survivors and Loved Ones' Network. Young adults with cancer are matched with a survivor who shares similar traits. Once a match is made, survivors offer peer support and mentoring over e-mail. Parents and family members can also be matched with someone coping with a similar situation. Contact The Ulman Cancer Fund at 888-393-FUND (888-393-3863) for more information.

Young Survival Coalition. Young women with breast cancer can connect with fellow patients and survivors who volunteer in this group's SurvivorLink program. Women can be matched based on specific concerns and issues, such as preparing for a mastectomy and breast reconstruction, and coping with cultural issues, metastatic (advanced) disease, and family risk of breast cancer. Find out more about the program by contacting the Young Survival Coalition at 877-YSC-1011 (877-972-1011).

To find out more about buddy and support programs offered by other organizations, review a list of patient information resources and contact a group directly to see if it offers the service.

More Information

Online Communities for Support

Caring for the Whole Patient

Making a Difference

Last Updated: April 17, 2012