From the day of diagnosis, to incredible relief of the "all clear", living with cancer can be a stressful, painful but in many cases curable experience. It may be hard to see how a cloud so potentially devastating as cancer could have any silver lining, but the rise of self help groups is one of the more positive aspects to come out of cancer suffering.
Self help groups provide a setting in which people can share similar experiences and offer each other practical and emotional support in a reciprocal and mutually beneficial manner. People go to self help groups for many different reasons; some simply want information and will then move on; others may want to make sense of what is happening to them by listening to the experiences of those who have been through something similar.
The sheer number and diversity of cancer self help groups that exist is quite remarkable, and they can be found in the most remote of places in UK. There are cancer help groups that cater for all manner of cultural subsets, such as ethnic minorities, gay and lesbian cancer sufferers and child sufferers. No matter your age, race or sexual persuasion, there is almost certainly a cancer support group that can help you.
And if there is not, why not start your own local cancer support group. Several major cancer charities offer help and advice to people wanting to start their own self help groups. They provide information, guidance and training to people involved in new or existing support groups. Members of new groups can attend workshops about starting up a self help group, workshops on listening and responding, as well as receiving support and advice from someone who has had the experience of setting up or being part of a self help group or service and will be on hand to answer any questions.
And finally, do not forget that the internet is alive with self help forums, mailing lists and discussion groups, so if for whatever ever reason you can not attend a self help group in person, get online and you'll find hundreds of people helping others by answering questions and providing help, support and advice via their personal computers.
Do not suffer alone; find your nearest self help group and join them, and if there is not one in your local area, get active and start one!
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