In July 2016, Dr. Catherine (Kathy) Jankowski, an exercise physiologist at the University of Colorado, was an expert guest on the Fight CRC blog. At that time, we were gearing up for our first Climb for a Cure hike and Dr. Jankowski offered tips and advice for colon cancer and rectal cancer survivors who were planning to join the hike. She also offered tips and advice for cancer survivors who were going to start exercising for the first time. One of her comments was:
Find a buddy! The buddy system is highly recommended for safety reasons and makes the hike more fun. Hiking with a buddy is a good way to stay motivated to engage in healthy exercise behaviors.
Turns out, having a buddy is all around a great thing. Social support can offer encouragement, accountability, and even help increase healthy behavior through modeling. Here are 5 ways that a strong support network can benefit you:
- Help you stay calm and reduce stress. A strong support network during a cancer diagnosis, treatment, and survivorships has true benefit. It can help maintain emotional stability and adapt to a new normal with more ease, while increasing overall quality of life.
- May lower risk. In the breast cancer research world, a few studies (including one published in the December 12, 2016 issue of the journal Cancer) have shown that patients who are socially well-connected have a lower risk of breast cancer recurrence and reduced breast cancer death rates.
- Provide an extra ear at appointments. Having a friend or family member attend doctor appointments helps patients retain information and feel more confident in treatment decision-making.
- Support you in sticking to healthy habits!
- Have more fun while exercising. Exercising with a buddy can help you jumpstart a fitness routine and can help make fitness more exciting. Whether you’re engaging in some serious gossip, or showing off your competitive edge (all in good fun), having others with you during workouts can be more fun. Also, having an exercise buddy can help you stay accountable when it comes to your fitness goal, which is important, as evidence has shown that exercise can reduce risk of recurrence for people with colon cancer.
- People who have regular contact with friends or family may eat more fruits and veggies.
As we embark on our 3rd Climb for a Cure, consider the benefits of community. If you’re able to attend the hike, consider bringing along a friend. If you’re traveling solo, you’ll be surrounded by 70 colorectal cancer advocates all fighting (and climbing) for the same thing.
If you’re unable to attend the hike, consider going on a walk with a friend or family member – someone else fighting alongside you.
While a cancer diagnosis is potentially the most challenging event a person may experience in their life, having a strong support network can help in a variety of ways.
Here are some ways to grow your support network – both informally and formally:
- Talk to your friends and family
- Join Inspire
- Look for a local cancer support group. Call our Cancer Support line at 1-877-427-2111 to find a group near you
- Join a group at your spiritual or religious center
- Talk to a therapist or counselor
Thank you to the Hike Sponsors
Podcast – finding support