The Internet has changed much of how we, as a society, interact with one another. It shouldn’t be surprising that support groups have spread to the World Wide Web as well. Once upon a time, a patient’s support group consisted primarily of family and close friends, and perhaps the patient’s clergy. In tight-knit communities, this network might extend to a few community members as well. In the past three decades, understanding that patients can’t always get the emotional support they need from family and friends, more formalized local support groups have emerged. With the now-ubiquitous nature of the Internet, these local support groups have gone virtual, and this virtual evolution has included mesothelioma support groups.
Mesothelioma, caused solely by a history of exposure to asbestos fibers, affects approximately 3,000 new people each year. The fairly rare nature of the disease has meant that mesothelioma patients often only had the opportunity to join more general cancer support groups. Although this allowed them to have open discussions and share the challenges they were experiencing with other cancer patients, they often weren’t able to connect with people who were going through the same experience they were. Now, thanks to the Internet, patients can find mesothelioma support groups specifically for them.
Today, a variety of mesothelioma discussion groups can be found online, both moderated and unmoderated. The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, in conjunction with The Wellness Community, has established a virtual online support group, led by trained professionals, the first professionally facilitated online group for patients as well as families and caregivers. Other groups, such as The Association of Cancer Online Research and PatientsLikeMe, are also helping establish online mesothelioma support groups, giving mesothelioma patients a new way to connect with others who are going through similar challenges and who can relate to them in ways that others can’t. With these virtual support groups, every mesothelioma patient can get the support, the love, the information, and the caring he or she needs, no matter where they’re located.