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Ask the Patriarch 254
Secular Cancer Support Groups

from: H.

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Would you have any suggestion as to how I could about finding a cancer support group that has no religious affiliation.

I have just undergone major surgery and would very much like to have a chance to talk to other women dealing with the aftermath of this.

However no matter where I look, I get lots of prayers and blessings and religious platitudes which only tend to depress me.

I would be greatful for any hints.


The Patriarch replies:

I am sorry to hear about your illness and I do hope you successfully find your way through this difficult time.

Doing a web search for cancer support groups, I quickly saw why you are having difficulty finding an appropriate group. There is a lot of “support” offered that involves religion and spirituality; some of the groups claim it is absolutely necessary. I can understand why that would seem depressing

By refining the search criteria to secular cancer support, I found a lot of links showing that many elements of the non-believer community are very active in supporting cancer fundraising efforts, but little indicating that cancer treatment organizations respond by offering support groups aimed at the non-religious.

I did manage to find one online group dedicated to Secular Breast Cancer Support (though I’m not certain that is your particular issue). Now this group has not been active for over a year – but perhaps if you joined or just contacted the group moderator, you might find someone there who you could have some one-on-one discussions with.

An active resource that seems quite secular is Gilda’s Clubs, founded in memory of Gilda Radner. I’ve looked through a several of their local websites, (they don’t seem to have a central headquarters) and there’s no apparent religious or spiritual focus. They have branches in many US states and in Canada. Search on Gilda's Clubs and your state to see if there is one near you.

Associated with Gilda’s Clubs is the Cancer Support Community. I’ve gone through their website and have not noticed any religious or spiritual focus. They have local affiliates for in person support, and you can find a directory on the site. Also, the main site offers a helpline, online support groups, and discussion forums.
I hope at least one of these options is useful for you.

In addition, perhaps by publishing this, one of our members who has also gone through us might consider contacting me, and I'll put the two of you in touch. Suggestions for other resources are also welcome and will be published in the discussion section.

I hope at least one of these options is useful for you.

Best wishes and my hopes for a full recovery

John Tyrrell