By Lori Robinson
My name is Lori. I am not a lung cancer survivor. I have been running a monthly lung cancer support group in Central Florida for the past six years.
When I decided to start the group, I was working for a pharmaceutical company and noticed the essential need for in-person support for those impacted by lung cancer. It didn’t take much to realize how significantly this community was overlooked.
I saw that patients wanted a safe place to share their fears, experience comfort, peace and hope in the presence of others who share in the journey. On top of dealing with cancer, lung cancer patients also experience a stigma attached to the disease, a shame that is difficult to escape. Lung cancer is an equal opportunity disease; it does not discriminate. Today, the pendulum is swinging and folks are realizing this.
Our monthly support meetings consist of between 25-35 patients and caregivers. It is hard to believe that when we started six years ago, we didn’t see our first member for three months. Starting a support group takes time, patience and determination. You must create an awareness in the community and they will come.
This group has been and continues to be, a very important place for many. We had a member who was having such a difficult time he told me the group literally saved his life. Every month someone will say how much this group means to them. Of course, there are tears, but we laugh, learn, grow and become so much better, together.
Although we always have a support component to our group, you can’t keep doing the same thing every month. To spice things up, we try and incorporate new and interesting activities and programs, like relaxation techniques and art therapy. We also bring in guest speakers to discuss diet/nutrition, psychosocial elements of the disease, medical/radiation oncology and thoracic surgery. We are always getting a pulse from members because needs are constantly changing. Our group is successful because we are open and flexible with topics and the desires of the group.
Working with lung cancer patients has taught me that the human spirit is far more powerful than I ever imagined and absolutely anything is possible if you believe in your dream. I believe in people and what we are able to achieve together.
If you would like to find a support group near your or are interested in starting your own, we can help! The Lung Cancer Alliance National Lung Cancer Support Group Network consists of 90+ lung cancer-specific support groups across the country. They will help you get started, provide you with free services and tools to grow and maintain your group.