When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was given an entire packet of information detailing the various support groups that were offered by my center, in addition to the calendar of meetings and different support events. That packet stayed tucked away in my medical folder.
It was March 2020. Due to COVID-19, all the meetings had been moved to the virtual setting. They had become more accessible than ever, but I had no interest or intent to participate in one.
As a medical provider, I was aware of the emotional, social, and educational support attending a group could provide. However, I didn’t see how this could apply to me. It wasn’t because I couldn’t use support in the turmoil that ensued after my diagnosis. I simply was not ready for it.
I was consumed in feeling what it felt like to receive a cancer diagnosis. I didn’t have the capacity to hear about other people’s experiences or receive messages of hope or even reassurance. And most importantly, I absolutely didn’t want to talk about it.
I struggled to say the word cancer out loud for weeks. I could barely tell those closest to me that I felt should know about my diagnosis, let alone conceive discussing it with strangers. Full disclosure: I never joined a cancer support group.
The first contact I made with a fellow breast cancer patient was shortly after I reached remission. By then, I had opened up about my journey with family and friends via writing. I found this method of communication kept my loved ones up to date and served as a therapeutic release for my consciousness regarding my cancer.
I turned to social media and started my page, @drkavitajackson, on Instagram specifically to share my experience -- the good, the bad, and the ugly -- to support other people affected by cancer.
Through social media, I met what I now consider to be my support group. Informally and organically, I connected with dozens of other women in various stages of their cancer experience. Through posts and private conversations, I felt supported by people who I felt understood me. And I was ready to receive it.
Over time, our relationships have grown as we watch each other's similarities and variety in cancer experiences. From struggling to identify myself as having cancer, I now gratefully feel part of the cancer community.
It has revived my reality as a cancer survivor, providing grounded context to the role cancer plays not only in my life but in the lives of so many other individuals. Now we can walk through cancer together.
Through social media, I also discovered support through organizations such as The Breasties and For the Breast of Us. They provide an abundance of free, relatable, and useful information and support related to breast cancer. I appreciated the silent but still powerful connection to other breast cancer patients I could access through their websites, podcasts, blogs, and social media accounts.
Most people assume that if you have cancer, you have to or should connect with other cancer patients or join a support group. It’s not true. I consciously chose to do so, throughout my active treatment, and even now in remission. I don’t have to do anything if I don’t want to. It’s my experience and hence, it’s my choice.
Currently, I find support through having connected with other cancer patients -- when I felt ready to do so -- and I will continue to do so as long as it serves the purpose of support for me.
To connect with other breast cancer survivors, join our Breast Cancer Facebook Support
Photo Credit: fizkes / iStock via Getty Images Plus
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