You are not alone. Connect with fellow survivors who share your diagnosis.
Support groups provide a time and space for patients and family members to discuss feelings, concerns, and attitudes in a caring atmosphere. Attendees of these groups are able to share their journeys, thoughts, concerns in a supportive environment. The groups are facilitated by professionally trained social workers and other members of your support care team.
Online Support Groups
As families face the uncertainties of a cancer diagnosis and the COVID-19 pandemic, Social Work is putting together Zoom support groups for patients and caregivers.
Starting Monday, April 13, daily Zoom support groups will be offered. Social work counselors will facilitate support groups. These sessions provide an opportunity for patients, family members, and friends to meet others in similar circumstances, develop new relationships, and find out how others cope during this time of increased distress.
How to sign-up
The general patient support and caregiver support groups will be offered daily with different facilitators. Patients and caregivers are asked to RSVP ahead of time and include their name, MRN, and group preference for attendance. The facilitator will reach out to them and send a Zoom invitation within an hour before the support group starts. Patients/caregivers can then either log-in via Zoom on their own computer, or use the phone number provided in the email.
General Cancer Patient Support Group:
- Mondays at 4 p.m. (Spanish speakers): RSVP to Yasi Canga-Gonzalez at YCCanga@mdanderson.org
- Tuesdays at 3 p.m.: RSVP to Heather Valladarez at HValladarez@mdanderson.org
- Thursdays at 3 p.m. (men only): RSVP to Jeanrico Luxama at JLuxama@mdanderson.org
- Fridays at 10 a.m.: RSVP to Chris Parker at CAParker2@mdanderson.org
Caregiver Support Group:
- Mondays at 3 p.m.: RSVP to Jessica Meaux at JBMeaux@mdanderson.org
- Wednesdays at 3 p.m.: RSVP to Suki Gibson at SPGibson@mdanderson.org
- Thursdays at 3 p.m..: RSVP to Emily Juarez at ECHyland@mdanderson.org
- Thursdays at 5 p.m.: RSVP to Chris Parker at CAParker2@mdanderson.org
- Thursday at 6 p.m. (Spanish speakers): RSVP to Yasi Canga-Gonzalez at YCCanga@mdanderson.org
- Fridays at 2 p.m.: RSVP to Melanie Cavazos at MCavazos@mdanderson.org
Cancer Survivorship Group:
- Tuesdays at 6 p.m.: RSVP to Kendolyn Shankle at KFShankle@mdanderson.org
- Thursdays at 10 a.m.: RSVP to Traci Newsome at TMNewsom@mdanderson.org
Several specific types of support groups for young adults, parents, and gynecological and stem cell/blood cancer patients will also be offered:
- Brain Tumor Support Group, part of the BEST (Brain Tumor Education and Support Together) program
- Second Tuesday of each month at 12pm (noon)
- RSVP to Megan Whetstone at MEHanenkratt@mdanderson.org
- LGBTQIA+ Support Group for Patients & Caregivers
- First & third Tuesday of each month at 11 a.m.
- RSVP to Dawnica Mathis-Huff at DLMathis1@mdanderson.org
- Young Adult (ages 18-39) Group
- Second and fourth Thursday of each month at 6:30 p.m.
- RSVP to Wendy Griffith at WEGriffith@mdanderson.org
- Helping your Children Cope with Pandemic Stress: A Support Group for Parents
- Thursdays at 10 a.m.
- RSVP to Shelby Becka at SCBecka@mdanderson.org
- Stem Cell Transplant/Blood Cancer Support Group
- Thursdays at 2 p.m.
- RSVP to Amber Lane at ACLane@mdanderson.org
- General Gynecology Cancer Support Group
- Fridays at 2 p.m.
- RSVP to Vanessa DeLappe at firstname.lastname@example.org
- General Endometrial Cancer Support Group
- Second Wednesday of each month at 12 p.m. (noon)
- RSVP to Sarah Stone at SStone@mdanderson.org
- Metastatic Breast Cancer Support Group
- Wednesdays at 11 a.m.
- RSVP to Abbey Kaler at ABCProgram@mdanderson.org
- Coping with Breast Surgery & Reconstruction Support Group
- Second Wednesday of each month at 1 p.m.
- RSVP to Katherine Hurst at KRHurst@mdanderson.org
- Well Wives Support Group (for women whose spouse has cancer)
- Thursdays at 4 p.m.
- RSVP to Samantha Rodrihuez at email@example.com
- Teen Hangout (a support group for teens age 12-18 diagnosed with cancer)
- Wednesdays at 1 p.m.
- RSVP to Child Life at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Phase to Phase: An Oncology Clinical Trial Support Group
- 2nd & 4th Thursday of each month at 1 p.m.
- RSVP to Sophie Ortega at SOrtega11@mdanderson.org
- Circle of Hope Bereavement & Loss Support Group
- Wednesday Night at 5:30 p.m.; Dec. 2nd - Jan. 13th
- This is a closed, 6 session group and requires pre-screening
- RSVP for pre-screening & registration details to Daniel Huvard at DAHuvard@mdanderson.org
- The ABC's of Healthy Living in Challenging Times Web Series: The Advanced Breast Cancer (ABC) Program and Clinic invites all MD Anderson patients and caregivers to participate in the virtual webinar series “The ABCs of Healthy Living in Challenging Times.” This multidisciplinary weekly virtual webinar series will focus on topics such as diet, exercise, sleep, mental health, telemedicine, and much more. Please join us for a virtual community and tips for maintaining healthy living during these challenging times. RSVP to Abbey Kaler at ABCProgram@mdanderson.org or visit here for more information.
- Lunch & Learn Web Series for GI Patients & Caregivers: Each week we will have one of our team members speak about a concern common to GI patients and their caregivers. The online group will be a forum where you can learn about a topic and have your individual questions addressed. Starting May 14, each Thursday at noon, different facilitators will discuss the topic. The schedule is as follows: May 14, Eating Well Through Cancer; May 21, Mindfulness Relaxation Techniques to Cope with Stress; May 28, GI Support Group for Patients and Caregivers; June 4, Intimacy, Sexuality, and Cancer. RSVP to Mark Anderson at MEAnders@mdanderson.org.
- Active Living after Cancer (ALAC), is a Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) funded program. The program aims to improve the quality of life of cancer survivors in Houston and El Paso by promoting physical activity, and by providing navigation services for survivorship issues. The program consists of 12 weekly sessions, followed by a reunion at the conclusion of the program. Each session is comprised of cognitive and behavioral skills training related to increasing physical activity, a guided discussion on a survivorship topic, and short bouts of moderate physical activity. The program is free of charge, and each participant will be provided a pedometer and a resistance band, that they may keep, to help them reach their physical activity goals. For more information click here.
- Lunch & Learn Series: Volunteer Services and Merchandising hosts virtual Lunch & Learn sessions for patients, caregivers, volunteers, and employees to hear the latest news and information related to cancer from MD Anderson experts. Classes will be held using Zoom on the second and third Tuesdays of the month from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. CDT. For a complete schedule and registration, links visit here. For additional information contact myCancerConnection.
For more information on any of the support groups listed above, please contact Social Work at 713-792-6195.
Many cancer patients and their families rely on support groups to help navigate cancer and manage their mental and emotional health. That’s why MD Anderson social work counselors have transitioned our cancer support groups to meet virtually to protect patients, caregivers and workforce members from the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.
Like in-person cancer support groups, virtual support group meetings provide a safe place to share your experiences and connect with others facing the same challenges. It gives you the space to connect with others dealing with cancer, talk openly about your feelings, receive practical advice, share resources and contacts, better understand and be able to describe your experience and develop coping skills.
Tips for a better virtual cancer support group experience
Some people may find the idea of a virtual support group a little intimidating at first. Not only is there new technology involved, but you are no longer sharing physical space with your group. Your family members may even be in the next room.
To help you navigate virtual cancer support groups, our facilitators shared their best tips for getting the most benefit out of the experience. Here’s what they recommend.
- Find a comfortable, quiet place where you won’t be interrupted so that you can devote all of your attention to the group.
- Test your audio and video capabilities before the virtual support group. Consider using headphones for better audio, and to cut down on feedback and background noises.
- Let your group leader know if you have questions about how to navigate the group, such as how to turn on your camera or how to put yourself on mute.
- Be open to meeting new people.
- Keeping coming back. Don’t worry if you’ve missed some group meetings – you can return and join whenever you’re able.
- Don’t feel like you have to use video to participate. Some people feel more comfortable using a phone and calling in.
- If you feel uncomfortable about any aspect of the support group, please voice concerns to group facilitator. This is a safe and confidential space.
- Feel free to provide feedback and suggestions to your support group facilitator to help improve the group. This group is for you.
- If you feel intimidated about sharing, especially if it is your first time, know that you are never expected to share if you do not want to. You can always just listen. You still can get a lot out of the group from hearing other’s experiences.
- If it's your first time, feel free to call or email the group leader with questions or concerns about the group prior to attending in order to alleviate your fears.
Virtual cancer support groups offer unique benefits
The social work counselors who facilitate virtual support groups are seeing benefits to this new format for patients, caregivers and the facilitators.
“I had no idea what to expect when we began, but it’s incredible to connect with patients from their homes,” says social work counselor Melanie Cavazos. “Previously, support groups were typically only attended by local patients, but by holding them virtually we are creating an opportunity for out-of-town patients to remain connected. Our local patients benefit as well and enjoy not having to mess with Houston traffic or hospital parking to attend a support group. It is unbelievably brave of our patients and caregivers to be vulnerable with a group of strangers and I am grateful to be a part of something so special.”
Not only can virtual meetings be more comfortable, they are also providing flexibility for busy schedules.
“Virtual support provides greater access for our patients to connect. Individuals no longer need to worry about getting ready for another appointment or traveling to meetings. This is a wonderful opportunity to find meaningful connection with other peers at one of the many dates and times convenient for them,” says social work counselor Sonia Jurado.
General patient and caregiver support groups are offered, as well as several specific types of support groups for young adults, parents, and gynecologic and stem cell transplant/blood cancer patients. To find a cancer support group that’s right for you and register for an upcoming meeting, visit our website.
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