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Deer Park Monastery Photo Credit: K. Lundblad

Deer Park Monastery Photo Credit: K. Lundblad

Recently, a group member brought up religion. He shared that he’s made an observation when he talks to other people who have cancer. He feels that religion is often an indicator to how others are coping. Another group member immediately said, “I have too.” She then turned to me (the facilitator) and said, “But I thought we were not allowed to bring up religion in group.” I said that we can absolutely talk about religion as long as everyone is respectful of each other’s beliefs and differences, and as long as we don’t try to put our beliefs on to someone else. The group agreed.

This group member went on to say that when he talks to other people who are living with cancer, he notices that religion is a factor in how they are (or are not) coping. He feels that his religion has given him a foundation, and that he relies on his faith when he needs strength to get through a difficult situation. He shared that he’s aware of others coping well when they are connected religiously and/or spiritually; but when he talks to people who do not feel connected this way, they seem to struggle more with their diagnosis and uncertainty.

Religion and spirituality are unique to each individual and can have many meanings. Often they provide people with comfort, but not always.

Is religion/spirituality a factor in how you cope?

Is there something other than religion/spirituality that helps you through difficult/challenging times?

Is religion/spirituality difficult to connect to right now?

I look forward to continuing this important and (possibly) sensitive topic. Please know that there are no right or wrong feelings/thoughts/connections.

Warmly,
Stephanie


Stephanie Stern, LCSW-C is an oncology social worker and the moderator of The MetaCancer Foundation’s Mosaic Online Support Community.

The MetaCancer Foundation provides information and resources focused on the unique psychological and emotional aspects of living with metastatic cancer. Mosaic is a free online support service for people living with metastatic cancer and their loved ones.

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Photo credit: K. Lundblad

Photo credit: K. Lundblad

During one of my recent face-to-face support groups, we spent some time discussing insensitive people in our lives. One group member shared that he was recently approached by a co-worker (whom he is not close to). This woman wanted to know his prognosis and any other information that he was willing to share about his cancer. He was surprised and upset by his colleague’s intrusive questions. He said that he felt “put on the spot.”

The group and I validated his feelings and together we talked about possible ways to handle these situations in the future. Several people shared that they have had similar experiences and that they, too, felt uncomfortable. Together the group came up with five answers to give people who ask intrusive/insensitive questions.

  1. This is private.
  2. It’s hard for me to share.
  3. I don’t feel comfortable sharing at this time.
  4. Thank you for your concern. I’m okay. (even if you’re not). Or…
  5. Thank you for your concern. If there’s something that you need to be aware of, I will let you know.

Have you ever been approached by a family member, neighbor, colleague or acquaintance with questions about your or your loved one’s diagnosis/prognosis?

Have you experienced someone asking you “how are you?” (in that certain tone)

Does it feel intrusive/nosy/insensitive?

How have you handled these encounters?

I look forward to hearing your experiences, thoughts and feelings.

Warmly,
Stephanie


Stephanie Stern, LCSW-C is an oncology social worker and the moderator of The MetaCancer Foundation’s Mosaic Online Support Community.

The MetaCancer Foundation provides information and resources focused on the unique psychological and emotional aspects of living with metastatic cancer. Mosaic is a free online support service for people living with metastatic cancer and their loved ones.

 

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Photo credit: K. Lundblad

Photo credit: K. Lundblad

Having a cancer diagnosis is an unwanted event. That being said, unexpected things can come during this difficult time.

Recently, I’ve been asking my group members to think about and share their “silver linings” after their own cancer diagnosis, such as what has been positive and what has been surprising. Many have shared that they have received support and kindness from family members and friends, as well as from people they did not know well before their diagnosis. The compassion they receive from others feels good and is truly appreciated. Others said they no longer sweat the small stuff and that they have shifted their priorities as a result of their cancer diagnosis; now they spend their time focusing on the things that have meaning in their lives.

The group also talked about recognizing the importance of advocating for yourself, taking better care of yourself, making amends, letting go of anger/hostility, and educating others about cancer risks and early detection. They all shared that, before cancer, they had no prior support group experience. Now they rely on the group for support, information and connection; sharing their thoughts, feelings and experiences with people who “get it” feels good!

What are your silver linings… or are they hard to find?

Is this something you think about often? Why or why not?

I look forward to continuing this discussion.

Warmly,
Stephanie


Stephanie Stern, LCSW-C is an oncology social worker and the moderator of The MetaCancer Foundation’s Mosaic Online Support Community.

The MetaCancer Foundation provides information and resources focused on the unique psychological and emotional aspects of living with metastatic cancer. Mosaic is a free online support service for people living with metastatic cancer and their loved ones.

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