In the business world, networking is a common practice used to establish connections among professionals. Trading business cards and best practices is an effective way to help workers learn from others in their field.
The same holds true for those in the cancer world.
Networks can be a crucial support for cancer patients, who can benefit from others’ ideas and input, as well as seeing in action the simple notion that they’re not alone.
Network of Loved Ones
The front line of support can often be found right in patients’ own homes. Spouses, parents, children, relatives, friends and even neighbors can all play a role in a patient’s fight against cancer.
A study by the National Center for Biotech Information found that patients with a strong social support system of loved ones exhibited more resilience to stress, less risk of trauma-related disorders and even lower fatality rates.
The National Cancer Institute defines social support as a “network that is available in times of need to give psychological, physical and financial help.”
So what does that look like?
Support can be anything from a neighbor sitting with a patient during chemo treatment and lending an ear if he or she needs to talk. It could be demonstrated by kids taking over daily chores like laundry and carpooling for an ailing parent. After a grueling day of treatment, the last thing a patient should have to worry about is housework. Or, support could materialize as providing a loved one meals, helping with bills or offering other practical assistance.
Social support can come in countless forms — but all actions center on the idea that a patient knows he or she can rely on loved ones to help them conquer the challenges of cancer.
Network of Cancer Patients
Support for cancer patients can also be found through a network of other people who have faced, or who are facing, the disease.
Isolation, depression and anxiety are commonly reported by cancer patients. No matter how strong their social-support system of loved ones, patients may feel like others just don’t “get” what it’s like to have cancer. That’s where support from other cancer patients and survivors comes in.
According to National Cancer Institute, such support networks can help patients explore practical questions relating to their condition, share their stories, and improve outlook and mood through the knowledge that others have defeated cancer.
The American Cancer Society offers a comprehensive guide to support groups across the country. Apart from the traditional in-person groups for patients, the organization also provides information on web-based networks and resource for caregivers, as well as for those who have lost loved ones to cancer.
Network of Health-Care Providers
Even though visits to the physician may be a necessary component of cancer treatment, health-care providers should also be enlisted to offer support for cancer patients.
They are the gatekeepers of information about the patient’s condition and should be relied upon for forthright information sharing. A positive relationship with a physician is a two-way street. Patients should expect their health-care providers to give them an accurate picture of their diagnosis at each stop on their journey, but should also feel empowered to voice concerns and ask questions.
While doctors and nurses are trained to address patients’ medical needs, they’re also charged with caring for the whole person — and that means providing multi-layered emotional support as well.
Support networks are integral to a patient’s treatment and recovery from cancer. With the backing of loved ones, connections with other cancer patients and confidence in health-care providers, patients can confront their diagnosis knowing that they’re not alone — which can be a life-saving realization.