Support for the Breast Cancer Patient and Survivor
Remember, we all stumble,
every one of us. That’s why it’s
a comfort to go hand in hand.
As a breast cancer patient
or survivor, your needs (physical, emotional,
spiritual) are different from those of your
family, friends, co-workers and others who
know and care about you. Although you may
feel a need to make sure that everyone else
is “okay,” your first priority
should be taking care of yourself and finding
the support you need to help get you through
everything you are dealing with as a result
of your breast cancer diagnosis. There are
many ways you can find support, and you can
choose whatever is best and most comfortable
As you go through the process
of coping with a diagnosis of breast cancer,
you and your family will likely need different
kinds of support from different people.
The way that one person deals with learning
and living with the knowledge that she has
breast cancer is not identical to how another
newly-diagnosed patient may handle it. Neither
is the way in which family members, friends,
caregivers and co-workers face the situation.
In coping with breast cancer,
you should not let anyone tell you what you
need or how you ought to feel or cope with
this challenge. There is no “right” way
to deal with a breast cancer diagnosis
(or treatment and life beyond treatment).
It is important to identify what you need,
what you prefer, and what your limits are.
Can I Go to Find Support?
neighbors and co-workers. The emotional and
practical support of your family and friends
can be helpful and comforting. It can also
be stressful. People who do not have cancer
can sometimes say foolish or hurtful things
or act in a way that does not feel helpful
to you. You will feel better if you can let
others know exactly what you need and how
you prefer to be helped.
Support groups. You can find
groups at hospitals, health clinics, the
American Cancer Society and other support
centers. Several scientific studies have
shown positive benefits to breast cancer
patients who participate in support groups.
Groups in North Carolina to
find a group in your area or check with your
local hospital, cancer center or American
Cancer Society office).
system. Also called “peer support,” this
type of support connects newly-diagnosed
patients with survivors to offer emotional
support, guidance and camaraderie. Women
Building Bridges, a peer
support program created for women in North
Carolina, is one such program. The American
Cancer Society’s Reach to Recovery
program is another. Hospitals and cancer
centers may offer similar programs. Nationally,
Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization
and other breast cancer and cancer organizations
offer peer support programs (see Resources
at the end of this section).
counseling is another way for you to
get the emotional support you need while
coping with a diagnosis. Seeing a counselor
does not mean that something is wrong with
you. It is healthy for you to recognize when
you need help. Check with your health
insurance plan for benefits before you make
an appointment with a counselor. If you do
not have health insurance, you can check
with the social worker or nurse at your local
hospital, a clinic or women’s center
to find out if they offer free or low-cost
counseling services. Some counselors specialize
in working with individuals who have
Talking to a religious advisor
is another source of counseling. Some women
find that a diagnosis of cancer brings
out a spiritual crisis. It is common to
ask, “Why me?” Your
spiritual counselor can offer you
support in sorting through some of
the deep concerns that can arise about
your religion or values.
groups are sometimes called electronic
mailing lists, listservs or discussion
groups. They offer information, support
and community to their participants,
who usually correspond through e-mail.
(Members send in their comments, which
are sent to all other members of the
group.) Some online support group web
sites also have message boards, survivor
stories and chat rooms. The Association
of Cancer Online Resources (www.acor.org)
is one such organization. BClist.org
and BCmets.org are two other excellent
The above was adapted in
part from the Breast Cancer Resource Guide
of Massachusetts, 888.200.6894 or www.breasted.org.
800.ACS.2345 or 866.228.4327 (TTY)
Provides information and services for all
forms of cancer, including breast cancer.
Provides free booklets about support and
coping with cancer. Survivors and caregivers
can support each other through the
Cancer Survivors Network (877.333.HOPE
(4673) or www.acscsn.org).
Breast Friends, Inc.
404.843.0677 (support line) or
888.718.3523 (National toll-free)
Offers a 24-hour, toll-free, national hotline
for one-to-one support, comfort and information
for breast cancer patients. Also provides
peer support for husbands, family members
Buddy Kemp Caring House (Charlotte, NC)
Serves Mecklenburg and surrounding counties.
Provides home-like environment for emotional
support. All services free to anyone. Offers
support groups for breast cancer, metastatic
cancer, and support for family and friends.
Staffed by social work professionals who
provide support services, education and information,
referrals and financial assistance resource
guides. Offers a toll-free hotline for counseling
and telephone support groups. Available in
Cancer Hope Network
Has a free, confidential service that matches
cancer patients to trained volunteers who
have undergone a similar cancer experience.
Cancer Services, Inc. (Winston-Salem, NC)
336.760.9983 or 800.228.7421 (in North Carolina)
Serves Forsyth, Davie, Stokes and Yadkin
Counties. Offers support groups and community
education programs. All services free.
Cornucopia House Cancer Support Center (Chapel
This support center is available to anyone
from all areas of North Carolina. Offers
free education, complementary therapy and
support services (including support groups)
to people with cancer, their families and
Living Beyond Breast Cancer
(Survivor’s Helpline, Tuesdays 11:00
am - 3:00 pm)
Addresses post-treatment needs of women with
breast cancer through educational programs,
newsletter, helpline for survivors and family
Mothers Supporting Daughters with Breast
Support network of mothers who have daughters
with breast cancer. Helps mothers become
better “care partners.”
Cancer Information Service
One of the best resources available for cancer
patients, this government organization provides
the toll-free Cancer Information Service
in English and Spanish. Has free support
booklets about supporting cancer patients.
SHARE: Self Help for Women with Breast or
212.719.0364 or 866.891.2392 (hotline)
Survivor-led organization with mission to
ensure that no one faces breast or ovarian
cancer alone. Offers a hotline where breast
cancer survivors provide emotional support,
information and resources about breast cancer.
Most services available in Spanish.
Sisters Network, Inc.
A national organization for African American
breast cancer survivors. Focuses on education,
prevention, emotional support and awareness
of breast cancer for African Americans. Offers
Three chapters in NC:
- Piedmont Chapter (Tracy
Cook-Brewton, Gastonia, NC, 704.865.2227
Chapter (Valarie Worthy, Durham, NC,
919.419.8284 or firstname.lastname@example.org)
NC Chapter (Irene Short, Lumberton,
NC, 910.738.3175 or email@example.com)
SupportWorks Self-Help Clearinghouse (Charlotte,
Serves Mecklenburg and surrounding counties.
Offers listings of support groups, how to
start a support group, Internet chat support
groups. Has Cancer Resource Guide for Mecklenburg
and Surrounding Counties.
Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation
800.I’M AWARE (800.462.9273)
Foundation for breast cancer research, education,
screening and treatment. Offers toll-free
hotline with trained volunteers to provide
breast cancer, resource and peer support
information. Available in Spanish.
Vital Options International TeleSupport
818.788.5225 or 800.GRP.ROOM (800.477.7666)
Weekly call-in cancer radio show called “The
Group Room” links callers with other
patients, healthcare providers, long-term
survivors, and family members of patients
The Wellness Community
Offers a free program of emotional support,
education and hope for people with cancer
and their loved ones. Has several centers
throughout the United States.
Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization
800.221.2141 (English) or 800.986.9505 (Spanish)
Offers education, support and toll-free hotline
where callers are matched with survivor,
patient or supporter with similar breast
cancer experience. Other services are ShareRing
Network (monthly teleconference on breast
cancer subjects), and Men’s Match (for
men supporting a wife, mother, daughter or
friend through breast cancer).
Books and More
“Between Us: A First-Aid Kit for Your
Heart and Soul”, (video, 1998). Moving
documentary about twelve long-term breast
cancer survivors. Explores the changes and
challenges of those with cancer and their
friends and loved ones. Contact www.betweenus.org.
Contagious: The Breast Cancer Treatment
Survival Handbook, by Margit Esser Porter
(1997). Diagnosed with breast cancer at age
34, Porter includes advice and practical
tips from different women on how to cope
with breast cancer treatments.
Me Through This! The Practical Guide to
Breast Cancer, by Deborah A. Cohen
with Robert M. Gelfand, MD (2003). A breast
cancer survivor and oncologist write a supportive
book that offers many practical tips and
also a section for family and friends.
Beyond Breast Cancer: A Survivor’s
Guide for When Treatment Ends and the Rest
of Your Life Begins, by Marisa C. Weiss,
MD, and Ellen Weiss (1998). Focuses on physical,
social, legal, financial and emotional issues
women face with a breast cancer diagnosis.
Contact Living Beyond Breast Cancer at 888.753.5222
. . . I’m
Having a No Hair Day: Humor and Healing
for People With Cancer, by Christine Clifford,
illustrated by Jack Lindstrom (1996). Using
her experience with breast cancer, the
author writes a humorous book about the
power of laughter and positive thinking.
Contact 800.586.9062 or online at www.cancerclub.com.
Straw into Gold: Your Emotional Recovery
from Breast Cancer, by Ronnie Kaye,
MFCC (1991). Written by a psychotherapist
and breast cancer survivor, the book shows
how to turn a difficult time into an opportunity
for growth with examples from breast cancer
Secrets from the Sisterhood of Breast Cancer
Survivors, by Barbara Delinsky (2003).
The author, a breast cancer survivor who
also lost her mother to the disease, compiled
a collection of voices and practical tips
on coping from 300 breast cancer survivors.
Secret Catalog Never Stops Coming and Other
Lessons I Learned from Breast Cancer, by
Jennie Nash (2002). The author, diagnosed
with breast cancer at age 35, writes about
the life lessons she learned from her experience
with breast cancer.
(8 videos) Stages of breast cancer care
and survival. Inspirational and
informative stories from breast cancer survivors.
Call 800.775.5790 or see www.womanstories.org.
Association of Cancer Online Resources (ACOR)
Hosts public online support groups. Click
on “Mailing Lists.” Groups include:
(breast cancer patients)
or CAREGIVERS (partners/caregivers of
breast cancer patients)
- CLUB-METS-BC (metastatic
- CANCER-PARENTS (parent/children
- FACING-AHEAD (facing the
death of a loved one)
- LT-SURVIVORS (long-term
An online community for information and support.
The list is unmoderated and open to discussion
of any issue related to breast cancer.
An online resource for metastatic breast
cancer information and support. Covers wide
range of topics.
A non-profit site created by cancer survivor
Steve Dunn. Includes personal stories of
Friends in Touch
Site offers one-on-one support, message boards,
a chat room, book list and resources, recipes,
poetry and members’ stories.
Personal accounts of women’s experiences
with cancer. Resources, advice, guidance
for family members.
Online information and support relating to
HER2 gene, plus message boards and resource
Living With It
Support program for women with recurrent
breast cancer, sponsored by Aventis Pharmaceuticals.
Free articles, brochures, diet and exercise
tips, medical options, survivor stories.
Information, resources, e-mail discussion
lists, book reviews on support and breast
Learn about others’ experiences with
cancer and share your own story.