I do not dismiss for one second the wonderful skill of each doctor I worked with during my recovery from cancer. Their medical skills brought me through chemotherapy, radiation, tumor removal surgery and reconstructive surgery. Their medical skills and bedside manner were beyond reproach.

Support TeamBut there is another component in the midst of all of this thing called cancer. That intangible is family and friends who make up one's support group.

One's support group serves many functions. These people are present to offer assistance when needed. That could include rides, meals, changing dressings, bathing, visits and many more. In addition to these tangible assets are the more intangible such as encouragement, prayers, empathy and sometimes a kindly kick in the butt. Good friends and family seem to know what to say and when to say it.

I have friends who are fellow cancer patients who have chosen to keep their cancer private. That certainly is their privilege and their choice, and I respect that. They have chosen to keep their friends away and have failed to encourage a support group. It is my personal opinion that these individuals have lost a strong healing component. Research shows that a positive attitude and a positive support group aid in one's healing.

Open your heart and your mind, and welcome in those who offer support. A good place to start is with the cancer support group. We meet monthly in the Cancer Center. Do not feel obligated but feel welcome. I hope to see you there soon.

Be well.

— Joe Vitale


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Where have you found support? Do you attend a support group regularly? Share your comments below.

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About the Author

Joe Vitale was born on a mini-farm in Waukesha County to Italian immigrant parents in 1938, and spent most of his life in and around Waukesha. He attended Catholic schools in the city, graduating from Catholic Memorial High School, and went to Carroll College in his undergraduate years. He had a career in education that spanned nearly four decades, starting out as a teacher and, after postgraduate work, becoming an administrator in the School District of Waukesha. He was a curriculum director in environmental education and later a principal. He was diagnosed in 2007 with myxofibrosarcoma. "My good fortune of being cancer free has helped me realize how fragile we are," Joe says. "The past five years I have been actively involved with the Sarcoma Support group, now the Cancer Support Group and the Sarcoma Event Day ... I have been extremely fortunate with my outcome and hence the time to pay back."

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