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The initial diagnosis of breast cancer can be an isolating and distressing experience. Close friends and family are vital to your recovery efforts and overall peace of mind, of course, but they feel emotionally invested in your disease and your progress towards recovery. They are on your side and, in most cases, tend to be the bearers of positive reinforcement. They play a critical role in keeping your spirits up.
Every breast cancer survivor reaches a point of having made it through the typical treatments of surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. That can be a time of reassurance where the patient is grateful for the mere fact of survival, or a time for a lot of questions, concerns, fears, and decisions about the future. While friends and family are still excellent resources, the time after initial treatment is an excellent time to pull dispassionate opinions into the recovery process.
Many breast cancer survivors seek out support groups or the advice of a therapist to cope with the months and years of survival. Still, another option that works well for many is to become involved in an online community where other survivors can share their hopes and concerns for their health. There are several reasons why online communities may provide what the breast cancer survivor needs most.
1) There is a level of anonymity in the online world. It is a place where a breast cancer survivor can let down her guard and express her most profound doubts and concerns without the fear that can come from upsetting loved ones if the truth becomes too much to bear.
2) Many online communities have a moderator who is well-versed in the topics surrounding breast cancer. The moderator can group participants according to their concerns, recommend other websites for further research, or even suggest the participant seek additional medical advice.
3) Online communities often have participants of vastly different backgrounds and from locations all around the globe. They can share ideas and discuss treatment options, giving any inquiring participants a chance to learn about therapies they may never have considered. Online communities help spread the word about the latest progress being made in breast cancer research as well as giving the opportunity to learn about clinical trials.
4) No one understands the potential side-effects of breast cancer treatments or follow-up medications better than someone who experiences them first hand. Online communities offer a pool of like-minded individuals who can provide a genuinely empathetic shoulder to cry on. Knowing you are not alone in your struggles can be powerful reinforcement.
5) The online community is there when you need them. At 2 a.m., when the weight of the world is keeping you awake, you can always find someone in the community who has posted the encouragement or concerns that plague your mind. You can pour out your heart any hour of the day or night, and someone will have something to say that you might need to hear.
6) Winners love to brag about their success. You are sure to find someone in the online community who has overcome some obstacle that challenges you. When you achieve a goal, the online community is there to support and cheer you on.
7) Sharing your struggles and efforts with others online can make you accountable for your progress. It's harder to abandon your goals when others are looking over your shoulder with encouragement. It's also harder to fall behind when you worry about disappointing your supporters.
8) The other members of the online community can be the biggest champions in your everyday struggles. No one knows where you've been or where you're going better than someone who has traveled the same road.
9) Online communities tend to be useful sources for other types of support. Recommendations for fitness classes, other website support services, and supportive book recommendations are common in these communities.
Online communities offer you a chance to give back some of the support and encouragement you have received from others in the forum. Don't forget that you are a part of an ongoing stream of women, and some men, who must deal with the struggles of breast cancer before, during, and after the diagnosis. There is a lot to learn from online community support forums and a lot you can give in return.