The following is the final installment in my series on the importance of cancer support groups. As we've been highlighting different lung cancer news throughout November, the following is an interview with Amy Copeland,  Director of Community Services for the Lung Cancer Alliance.

Amy oversees the listing of cancer support groups, helps train volunteers and manages those who participate in the phone buddy peer support program. Amy also helps monitor question and answer sessions on the cancer support forums on the Lung Cancer Alliance's website.

DH: What types of services does the Lung Cancer Alliance specialize in and find most valuable to those who have been diagnosed with lung cancer?

AC: The biggest service that the Lung Cancer Alliance tries to provide is support. This support originated with a phone buddy program for 1-on-1 peer support, and has moved to not only that, but also listing as many specialized lung cancer support groups who meet in certain areas and also online message forums.

The biggest value that is derived from these different programs is that the patient and their family can feel more comfortable because most lung cancer patients seem to want to have a specialized support group in lung cancer and this is provided at the Lung Cancer Alliance. Also, while these services include a list of face-to-face support groups, Amy stated that not everyone wants a face-to-face support group. There are many reasons for this including transportation hassle, group proximity, or they just don’t feel comfortable with a face-to-face group and feel they can gain the knowledge and support through the internet or the phone.

DH: What are some of the more common questions that individuals facing a lug cancer diagnosis ask when first attending a support group?

AC: A lot of these people just feel the need to connect. Most newly diagnosed lung cancer patients have never met anyone with lung cancer before which creates a sense of isolation. Through these support groups they gain that sense of camaraderie and learn that other people are in the same situation as they are. The questions that people normally ask are very specific to their situation and how to deal with their situation such as how to cope with treatments or how to best keep the cancer from recurring.

DH: How beneficial do you think support groups are for the people who have been diagnosed with lung cancer and their caregivers?

AC: These groups or communities are very beneficial. One can gain a first hand perspective from someone who has gone through the same thing that they are going through. This is extremely important in the healing process to be able to speak to people who are struggling with the same thing that they are going through not only physically, but also mentally by discussing how to handle fears, anxiety, and depression.

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On behalf of the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, I'd like to thank Amy for speaking with us about some of the great opportunities the Lung Cancer Alliance provides for patients, their loved ones, and caregivers.

Amy added that support groups are not just for the patient. She spoke about her first hand knowledge of attending a support group when one of her parents was going through a cancer diagnosis. She found it very helpful to her because she found out how to best care for her loved one. Caregivers can learn many things from attending a support group such as how to deal with the emotions that their loved one is going through and how to best care for their loved on when going through various treatments.