This is a sponsored post on behalf of Texas Oncology about my involvement in local Austin organizations serving cancer patients and survivors, as well as how people can get involved and make an impact.
Why You Need a Good Support System
When you face a major challenge in life, it is so important to have a strong support system. According to the National Cancer Institute, there are many positive benefits of social support for cancer patients including better coping skills and improved quality of life.
My Support System During Breast Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment
During the time of my breast cancer treatment, I did not have any close family members nearby. Thankfully, my husband, kids, and I had generous neighbors and local friends as well as family members who traveled to Austin to help. In addition, we had friends set up a care calendar to provide meals. One mom from my kids’ playgroup drove my son to and from pre-school each day, so that I would not have to go there with my weakened immune system. Others took my kids out for fun outings or dropped off bags of groceries for my family.
Cancer is Overwhelming
As much as I appreciated these caring gestures, at times I felt overwhelmed. Not only did I have physical limitations and side effects, I was also struggling emotionally. It seemed no one really understood what I was going through or how I felt. I had spoken with a few women over the phone who were breast cancer survivors. While I appreciated their advice and knowledge, I felt that I would benefit more from local, in-person connections.
Learning about Local Austin Support Groups and Organizations for Cancer Patients
During one of my visits to Texas Oncology, I learned about the Breast Cancer Resource Center (BCRC). The BCRC is a local organization in Austin that provides free services to anyone affected by breast cancer. After speaking to a patient navigator within the organization (who was also a breast cancer survivor), I found out about a support group they host called The Pink Ribbon Cowgirls. This support group is specifically for those diagnosed at age 45 or under.
The Pink Ribbon Cowgirls – Young Austin Breast Cancer Patients
The Pink Ribbon Cowgirls provided me with that local connection I was desperately seeking. This is a fun, lively group of women who discuss anything from weird side effects, parenting during cancer, dating, and relationships during or post-cancer, as well as topics not related to cancer at all. I used to bring my toddlers to the lunches. As Noah sat in his high chair and Evan colored a kid’s menu, the Pink Ribbon Cowgirls would laugh, cry, and support each other through life’s ups and downs.
Wonders and Worries for Cancer Patients’ Families
Although my kids were very young at the time of my diagnosis, there were still issues we faced as a family relating to cancer. Another beneficial Austin organization serving cancer patients and survivors is Wonders and Worries. They offer professional support for kids through a parent’s illness by providing families with the tools they need to build their well-being and coping skills. We used many of their services and enjoyed attending parties and events with other families who we could relate to.
Benefits from Austin Cancer Organizations and Support Groups
These local support groups and organizations gave me knowledge, tools, and personal connections to help me cope better and reduce my anxiety. Even today, after 9 years of survivorship, I am still active in these local organizations as well as others that serve cancer patients and survivors.
I feel that it is now my duty to give back and help others. By sharing my experience, offering suggestions, giving my time, and listening, I hope to pass along all of the wonderful benefits I received.
How to Help Local Cancer Patients and Survivors
For those looking to get involved and make a real impact, ask your local cancer community how you can help. If you are located in Austin, contact the Breast Cancer Resource Center or Wonders and Worries, or reach out to Texas Oncology for a list of local organizations that could use your help. Also, Texas Oncology Foundation provides financial assistance and other needed support to patients. If you personally know someone affected by cancer, ask what you can do to help. Offer to run errands, prepare meals, or just lend an ear to listen.
Rachel is an Austin blogger, educator, mom, wife, young breast cancer survivor writing about health, saving money, and living a happy life in Austin, Texas.
Rachel has written for HuffPost and Hometalk and has been featured on KXAN, Studio 512, Fox 7 Austin, and CBS Austin.