Studies have shown that cancer support groups help ease depression and anxiety in cancer fighters, help them feel more hopeful, and empower them to manage their emotions better, according to Cancer.Net. The benefits of support groups also extend to cancer survivors and caregivers.
As part of ensuring that those impacted by cancer have access to the resources they need, Imerman Angels works with Cancer Partner Organizations that offer related, but not identical, services. One of these organizations is Gilda’s Club – a nonprofit that provides free emotional and social support for anyone impacted by cancer including cancer fighters, family and friends and those who have lost a loved one to cancer. The organization has offered a variety of specialized support groups since its inception in 1995.
“Member demand is really what motivated us to start offering cancer support groups. We have also had requests from organizations affiliated with a certain type of cancer to hold support groups at our facilities,” says Maggie Bahler, Director of Marketing for Gilda’s Club Chicago.
Gilda’s Club houses are located throughout the United States and Canada, with cancer support groups an integral part of the activities offered at every location. Each club house executes its support groups a bit differently. For example, the Chicago location hosts a variety of groups. There are three different types of “closed groups” – wellness groups for cancer fighters in active treatment; family and friend groups for those supporting a cancer fighter; and bereavement groups for those who have lost someone to cancer. These weekly groups require a 12-week commitment and participants are assigned to a group. Monthly networking groups, on the other hand, allow participants to attend as many sessions as they wish and are designed for those with similar diagnoses (for example, prostrate or bladder cancer) or life situations.
Maggie shares that attendees have developed friendships outside of the groups and look forward to meetings as part of their weekly or monthly routine.
“Our goals here in Chicago include minimizing feelings of isolation, making sure members feel empowered, and providing support. So the groups are designed to address these issues. Members report that the groups make a huge difference in their cancer journey,” she says.
Gilda’s Club is open to hosting additional specialized cancer support groups. A prime example is the metastatic breast cancer group the Chicago club house started six months ago in response to member requests.
All of the club houses provide varying support levels and commitment levels and each can direct you toward which cancer support group is the best fit for your situation and preferences. Affiliates across the country operate under two different names – so to locate the Gilda’s Club nearest you, go to www. cancersupportcommunity.org and click on “Find an Affiliate”.
Each cancer fighter, survivor or caregiver’s inclination for support is different. If you would like to receive personalized one-on-one support in addition to joining a group, register with Imerman Angels to get matched with a Mentor Angel who has been through an identical cancer journey.