Cancer support groups that you can lean on

Cancer support groups that you can lean on

Consider joining one of these active support groups which connect cancer patients, their loved ones and caregivers with others who have “been there”, and provide a safe place to share and work through feelings and challenges.

Hearing the news that you or someone you love has cancer is devastating, and can set off a range of emotional responses: shock, anger and disbelief. You may feel intense sadness, fear, and a sense of loss. And sometimes even the most supportive family members and friends can’t understand exactly how it feels to have cancer, or care for someone with cancer. This can lead to feelings of loneliness, despair and isolation.

But support groups help many people cope with the emotional aspects of cancer by providing a safe place to share and work through feelings and challenges. They allow people to learn from others facing similar situations, and inspire hope.

Support group members also talk about practical information, like what to expect during treatment, how to manage pain and other side effects of treatment, and how to communicate with your medical care team and family members. Exchanging information and advice can give you a sense of control and reduce feelings of helplessness.

Ask your medical team or palliative care team to recommend a group in your area, and take a look at a few of our suggestions here:

The Cancer Association of South Africa, CANSA recognises the importance of support groups for cancer survivors, caregivers and loved ones, and offers them the opportunity to meet a caring community, when they join their local CANSA Support Group – find your nearest group here – or one of CANSA’s online support groups. Their active groups connect cancer patients and those in remission, their loved ones and caregivers with others who have a real understanding of their life experience, and mutual sharing of coping strategies and valuable information is exchanged. Bereavement support is also provided by CANSA.
Online support groups are a good option for people who live in remote areas, who don’t have easy access to transportation, or who don’t feel comfortable sharing their experiences in person. Online support groups also allow people with rare types of cancer to communicate with others who have the same type of cancer.

Cancer Dojo
This one’s not a support group as such; it’s an app that empowers cancer sufferers to play an active role in their cancer treatments, with the intention of making them more resilient to the negative effects of the disease. The Cancer Dojo app, designed by the super-inspiring Conn Bertish who survived of a rare form of malignant brain cancer, provides a simple, informed, user-friendly journey that teaches patients how to actively engage with their chosen treatments, stay motivated, generate their own meditations, learn how to visualise, be more mindful, eat better, live better, and ultimately become happier and healthier.

Cancer Buddies
Cancer Buddies offers a free and easily accessible peer-to-peer Buddy Support System, where cancer patients can receive practical advice, information, guidance and support directly from cancer survivors. Cancer Buddies matches and individually pairs each newly-diagnosed cancer patient with a buddy who have themselves already been through the healing process, as well as having had the same type of cancer. This buddy can then provide support, information and guidance relevant to your personal journey. These support interventions can take place telephonically, via email, on WhatsApp or even face-to-face.

Cancer Alliance
Cancer Alliance is a collective group of cancer control non-profit organisations and cancer advocates brought together under a common mandate, to provide a platform of collaboration for cancer civil society to speak with one voice and be a powerful tool to affect change for all South African adults and children affected by cancer. They’ve put together a comprehensive list of cancer support groups around South Africa.

Bosom Buddies
Bosom Buddies provides emotional and informative support to women and men affected by Breast Cancer at the time of diagnosis, during treatment and beyond. Run by volunteers, or “Buddies”, they support not only the breast cancer patients but also their spouses, partners, parents, children, siblings and friends. The “Buddies” guide and inform people diagnosed with breast cancer in a number of different ways: telephonic support, public meetings held every six weeks where people with breast cancer and their supporters connect with breast cancer survivors and listen to talks on issues related to breast cancer, and at awareness and fundraiser days like walkathons, spinathons and golf days.

If you want to recommend a support group that’s really helped you, drop us a mail at

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