Inside a Cancer Support Group – Where Patients & Caregivers Lean On Each Other

with cancer, they need their loved ones to show compassion and support.

5 min read
Inside a Cancer Support Group – Where Patients & Caregivers Lean On Each Other

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Every Monday for the last one year, Kajal, mother of a two-year-old girl child with blood cancer, makes a trip from the outskirts of the national capital to Gulmohar Park in South Delhi to attend a support group. She never misses a date – for being a part of the support group gives the emotional strength to be a better caregiver, a better mother, she says, when I met her at CanSupport's office, on one such Monday.

CanSupport is a non-profit organisation that works towards building a caring and supportive society where people with cancer and their families live with dignity, hope and comfort. Every Monday, they organise a support group – for young cancer patients, and their parents to come together – share their challenges, little joys, and their way of life.

Stories are narrated to the children and parents to help restore their faith.

(Photo: Parthavee)

"Being a part of support group made me realise that there are others like me – and there are other children like my children. When a child with cancer gets better, it gives me hope. I'm a mother – and I want to do all that I can to be in a better emotional state, to help my daughter," Kajal told FIT.

The children pay attention to each story being narrated waiting for their turn to tell what they learned.

(Photo: Parthavee)


What Happens During the Group Meetings?

On 30 January, when I visited, a group of 25 children gathered in a colourful room. They were all under the age of 10 – from toddlers to younger kids – but are already dealing with the diagnosis of bone cancer, brain cancer, leukemia, among others. At least 70 percent of those in the support group belonged to underprivileged backgrounds – with their parents engaged in as daily-wage labourers, security personnel, and domestic help.

When the group gathers at 11 am, there is chatter – like any classroom that has younger children. For a moment, it's forgotten that these are kids who are undergoing intense treatments.

A facilitator asks each of the children to share a motivational quote they liked.

Children share what is that one quote they find really motivational. The motivation one can feel by just listening to them is magical.

(Photo: Parthavee)

"Khushi hamesha barkarar rakhna chaiye, sab acha ho jayega ek din,” said an eighr-year-old cancer patient. (Maintain that happiness and eventually it’ll all be okay one day).

A 10-year-old patient added: "Sabko saath mil ke ek dusre ka hosla badhaana hai.” (We all need to encourage each other together)

(Photo: Parthavee)


"There is a long road ahead of us, but we are motivated knowing that there are others who can help us in this journey. Not just that, just seeing these kids together – participating in a class, or reading, playing with each other, also gives us hope," Nimisha (name changed), another mother whose child has also been battling cancer for a year now, added that most of these kids do not understand their diagnosis.

"They don't know what toll their body is going through. They are just children – but meeting kids like them not only helps us, but also them. Because deep down, they know what they are not alone. When they see kids like them, in these two hours, they forget everything and are just kids – like it should be."

Aanchal & Nadira, two beautiful souls who survived cancer and chose to make this world a better place.

(Photo: Parthavee)

In this cancer support group, parents of children diagnosed with cancer are taught grounding exercises to help them deal with things that affect them mentally as a caregivers.

(Photo: Parthavee)


The facilitator then – announces 'story time' – earning excited squeals, and applause from the children. She settles down with a book, with multiple pair of eager eyes looking at her – as parents make a quiet exit to another room.

Counselling For Parents, Stress Exercises

As the parents gather, a facilitator takes them through grounding techniques – strategies that can help a person manage their traumatic memories or strong emotions. They were taught breathing exercises, practical ways to

"The hospital visits are taxing. How do I explain to my child why she cannot go to school. Everything gets a bit much sometimes," another parent shared with the group.

The caregivers – most of whom are mothers, are told that it is okay for them to feel anxious, and are encouraged to talk to others or their counsellors to seek emotional help.

"I am stressed all the time. My husband is a tailor and we don't make more than Rs 10,000 every month. The support group helps me with ration also – and I cannot work because someone has to be home to take care of my daughter. I constantly feel money will come today, go off tomorrow – but I really want my daughter to be alright," Kajal told the group.


'Sense Of Community Important'

During my visit I also met two cancer survivors, who have decided to dedicate the rest of their lives in providing whatever help they can to the ones who are suffering – and are regularly a part of these support groups.

One of them, Aanchal Sharma, a breast cancer survivor, addresses parents during the support group, and saying a sense of community is of utmost importance.

"All my scars and the pain I went through, I felt really powerful. People might think what is my life beyond this as no one wants to marry a woman who is a cancer survivor, but they can't stop me from being loved."
Aanchal Sharma, Cancer survior, Co founder, Meals of Happiness.

"When I was diagnosed, I did not come from a well-to-do family. People I considered as friends at that time abandoned me. Today I have recovered, I have made a life for myself, and I give baclk to society – but I have also realised the importance of community," Aanchal said.

All the patients, caregivers, and survivors I met that day made me realise how happiness, sadness, hope and loss of hope, all coexisted within them at the same time.

But as the facilitator called for the kids and patients to join in a group dance, there was nothing but hope that reverberated in the room.

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