Written for and about the special population of parents of children with cancer, this book explores the remarkable effectiveness of self-help groups and profiles their rapid rise as a resource complementing traditional health care. Mark A. Chesler and Barbara K. Chesney draw on their own experience as members of such groups and on a combined thirty years of research on self-help. They provide essential information for families of children with cancer (and other chronic life-threatening illnesses), for health-care professionals working with them, and for scholars of self-help and psychosocial processes in health care--including explanations of how self-help groups function, why they are effective, and how they can be created and maintained.
The authors show that, through self-help groups, parents can learn coping skills, find personal affirmation and mutual support, and share the wisdom gained from their experiences. Chesler and Chesney find that group participation improves parents' coping capabilities in the face of terrible odds and fosters an increased sense of empowerment as they care and advocate for their children in an increasingly complex health care system.
Cancer and Self-Help distills the experiences of more than fifty self-help groups and their members over twelve years. It also places cancer self-help groups in a larger context, comparing them to other social movement organizations and to other strategies for personal coping or change. The book includes the voices of individual parents and professionals recounting their experiences; detailed examples of group activities, programs, operating procedures, and organizational structures; fundamental, how-to information on forming a self-help group; comments on the roles and dilemmas of health care professionals in these groups and on the medical care system as a whole, and interpretations of these individual and organizational dynamics.