The Buddy System: It works for Hereditary Cancer, Too

We’ve covered a lot of territory with this blog, so thank you for coming on the ride with us. Theresa Smith talked about her experience of sharing her genetic test results with her family, and we offered a genetic counselor’s perspective on the same idea. This time, we’re focusing more on you – we’re exploring the idea of building a support system. Remember the buddy system from your elementary school field trips? If you’ve been told you or your loved one has hereditary cancer, that’s a time when you might need to take the same approach.

As genetic counselors, we may not see you when the diagnosis is made, and we may not see you more than a couple of times – but whenever we do, being supportive is part of what we do. Yes, we have to cover a lot of facts when we meet, but listening to you is just as important to us. If we feel (or you tell us) that you need more support than we’re able to offer, we can offer a variety of resources to help you, depending on what kind of support you need. Support can come in many forms: a traditional support group, online community, a psychiatrist or psychologist, a social worker,  your healthcare providers,family or friends, a religious or spiritual figure, or a complete stranger who has been through a similar situation. With any luck, these resources may even have experience with hereditary cancer since, as you know, the issues you’re facing can be specific.

Thinking about reaching out or asking for help may be hard, but it is important to do and can make a huge difference. Maybe you’re someone that draws inward and finds strength from within when you face a challenge. If so, this is a perfect time to tap into that. But if your reserves are a little low, you may find it helpful to lean on your support system – your “tribe,” your “squad” – to get through. Doing this isn’t a unique strategy. You just have to know the key players you want to be part of your system, and this is different for everyone.

Here are some things to consider to find support during your journey with hereditary cancer:

  • The people in your support network: family, friends, spiritual or religious leaders, support or community groups, one-on-one counseling, or someone else?
  • A formal or informal network: do you want to join a support group or just confide in a couple of close friends or family?
  • A public or private experience: do you want to share with co-workers/neighbors, share your experience online, become a patient advocate, or limit telling only those you feel need to know?
  • Consider cultivating old (or new) interests: is this a good time to distract yourself with exercise, yoga, coloring, gardening, reading, listening to music, or something else?
  • Reflect on your journey and give back: journal, meditate, scrapbook, volunteer

Even if your initial network consists of only the professionals involved in your treatment, it can be very important to begin to trust and share your recovery with others. Try to eliminate negativity. There is always someone in our lives who likes to play the devil’s advocate. While this can be necessary at times, sometimes these people don’t make the best members of your core support network. Turn to them for troubleshooting and problem anticipation, but you may want to exclude them from your inner circle of cheerleaders. If you surround yourself with positivity and encouragement, it can become a lot easier to take on and conquer challenges in your life, and especially in your hereditary cancer journey.

Remember, the purpose of the buddy system is so that no one gets lost.

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The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this blog are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this blog is to promote broad understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog. Ambry Genetics Corporation does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions or other information that may be mentioned on this blog. Reliance on any information appearing on this blog is solely at your own risk.