Wednesday, 20 November 2019

BRiC's Collective Voice: Value of Mutual Support; Oct. 22, 2019

'We have had the same thought, fear or shared joy in the middle of the night as well.'
Our discussion this week explored the value of mutual support and friendship, and what has it meant to our members.

Naz described briefly how social support has been one of the biggest predictors of psychological well-being in the research literature. The benefits that this brings with it include protection against depression and loneliness, as well as boosting self-esteem and self-compassion.

The discussion highlighted a variety of support, differentiating between family, friends and online support. Many of us protect ourselves, and our families and friends, from the reality and impact that this disease has on our bodies both physically and emotionally. Many described the loss of confidence, feeling and looking physically different as well as the long-term impact that chemotherapy and other treatments can have on us.

Many described finding friends, and in some cases family members, disappearing from our lives, and whilst it was recognised how difficult it is to be able to be supportive, it was generally felt that there was an expectation that family and friends did not understand the impact that breast cancer can have. Many shared that after a few months of finishing 'active' treatment there is an expectation that we should be 'over' it and getting on with life without fear and worry. Many found that the lack of understanding led us to be less vocal about the impact the illness has had on us, and that has in turn led us to feel isolated.

There were a couple of members who identified that they were lucky enough to have a friend who was there for them regardless, and that this acceptance and willingness to try to understand was invaluable to them.

Online groups were seen as a massive source of virtual support. Being able to share thoughts and feelings, being able to ask if something is 'right' or should be checked out by professionals, and just having a safe place to be able to say how we are feeling, without the worry or need to protect others, was seen as invaluable.

Being able to write what the fears are in black and white doesn't make them less scary, but the responses from other members helps to stem the feelings of isolation because we understand, we have been there, we have had the same thought, fear or shared joy in the middle of the night as well.

The benefits of face to face meet ups was also thought to be positive. The value of meeting in person cannot be over-estimated. A real hug as opposed to a virtual one means so much, and online friendships tend to deepen when we've met in the flesh.

Being able to give and receive support is essential and being able to just 'be', to be accepted and not be the odd one out because of breast cancer.

Some members described that they did not feel that they had the right to be a part of these groups because they didn't have chemo or mastectomy, but it soon became clear within the discussion that everyone is valued equally. Whilst our experiences are all individual, the one thing we have all had in common is being told we have Breast Cancer. There is no light or lucky form of cancer.

If you are a woman living in the UK with a breast cancer diagnosis, and you would like to join our private group, please leave your name in the comments or send us a private message.

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