Cancer Support Group: The importance of joining (cont.)
Schimmel: It's incredible.
Moderator: Do you feel that online support groups are effective, or do you feel that there needs to be more human contact?
Schimmel: I feel that the human contact is important; cancer care is a very good example. They do support groups on the Internet, and I trust them completely. And WebMD does one that's simulcast with cancer. I think you have to look at the source, and I don't want to judge the ... if someone tells me they're getting great support from an Internet group, then I'm glad they're getting that support. You have to see what else is out there that mirrors your own philosophy and needs, but I'd still encourage people to get into a setting where you can look into the eyes of other survivors. It's where real friendships form, and a real sense of another human being can be developed one on one, along with whatever you're doing on the net or whatever support you're getting. Let's not forget to mention the importance of finding humor in the experience.
Moderator: What organizations support and conduct support groups?
Schimmel: Virtually every organization, obviously cancer care... the Wellness Community, Lymphoma Research Foundation of America... we do ours on the air. I don't know of a support organization that doesn't have support groups as part of their mission. So I encourage people to go to www.vitaloptions.org, and go to the resource section and check out a variety of groups. This weekend, I promoted a new lesbian cancer support group in Southern California. And the Brain Tumor Foundation has groups. Prostate Cancer Support Groups. So you name it, there's a support group. Some are disease specific, and some are much broader than that. There's too many to mention.
Moderator: What advice can cancer survivors offer to other cancer patients?
Schimmel: I support the ability to share common issues, will lead itself to the advice of how each person dealt with that particular issue in their lives. I think what we can do for each other is inspire hope, because I believe whatever stage of disease you're in, there's always hope. You hope for different things along the way. I think we can teach each other how to distinguish the differences between healing and curing, and support each other to cope, and cope with side effects. It's very easy to feel isolated, that you're the only one going through a particular emotion, or problem. So what you discover, and it may not be so much advice you're getting, its an exchange of information and common feelings. So when you sit with someone who has empathy, you exchange information, and it takes on a life of its own. People who meet in support groups, they look and realize that the odds of each other meeting without the cancer would have been remote. So you find these unlikely relationships that develop as a result of this cancer.
Moderator: What recent topics have you had on your program?
Schimmel: As I said, Valentine's Day we did a show on sexuality, fertility, intimacy, and love. What we really talked about was the essence of making love. It wasn't so much about the body part, but the heart. Dealing with issues of body image, or men who have been through prostate cancer, and learning about the fact that it's the creativity that goes into a relationship. My sister said after the show that this was a program that really wasn't about cancer, and people who didn't have cancer could have learned a lot about what makes a relationship truly passionate, what's based on issues of trust, and the aspects of lovemaking that transcend the physical. So this weekend, we did an open show, and we were all over the map.
Moderator: When and were can people get involved with your program?
Schimmel: The radio program, first of all you can go our website at www.vitaloptions.org. The program is simulcast in real time on the web, as well as on the air. We're heard throughout many major cities. West coast time, the show airs 1-3 p.m. ... and so East Coast would be 4-6 p.m. If people can't hear the show in their city, they can check it out on the web, or call 1-800-GRP-ROOM (800-477-7666). Even if they can't hear the show in their city, if they call in to the show while we're on the air, they'll hear the show on hold... and they can still call into the program.
Moderator: How do you suggest someone should find the one that will help them the most?
Schimmel: It may require going to more than one group, and I realize we're all exhausted going through cancer treatment... and it's real tough to muster up the energy to go to a group. But you can talk to your social worker, or your doctor, or other cancer patients maybe you meet in the waiting room or the treatment center. Or they can call an organization like Vital Options, and say this is what I need, this is where I live, then we'll help you find a group and we'll give you more than one to call. And you may have to go in for a visit to see if it works for you, and if the first group doesn't work, that doesn't mean groups won't work for you.
Moderator: Are family members welcomed at support groups?
Schimmel: Many organizations will allow for that, and if they don't, in a patient group, they will have a group for significant others. I think there's a need to have groups available for couples and family members, but I also think that family members need and deserve to have a group just for them. So they need a safe place to express what they're going through. Significant others go through... imagine, you have a life outside the life of cancer that you're dealing with the one you care. If you're a husband and your wife has cancer, you still have your job, and when you come home, you may have three young children running out, so now you're doing double duty. You're dealing with your business, medical issues, insurance, more errands, and maybe someone that can't do all the things s/he was doing before cancer. Significant others need special support and recognition, and a chance to replenish themselves emotionally so they ...
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