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What We’re Talking About Now: COMMUNITY

The conversation about what “community” means to us continues, and, as Jennifer wrote in a recent perspective piece, having a community around every person affected by cancer is a vital part of care. From the small and quiet moments of support to the proud and extravagant displays of steadfast allegiance, those around patients play an essential role: “It really does take a community to overcome the challenges that patients and caregivers face each and every day” Each of our contributors helped to outline a different way to see and connect to a community of cancer care. Anne wrote about the way her support community was built on small things that can mean so much, like bringing food and picking up the kids from school. This way of thinking about the word community overlapped somewhat with Chloe’s piece on the community she has found at her school while having her treatment –a community where “I know almost everyone by name.” Both of these contributors suggest that community is mostly about a feeling of belonging to something every day, familiar and small in scale (but certainly not in importance). Both Anne and Chloe seem to also argue that the community around you, that can offer all this support, reveals itself most of all in times of adversity. It’s important to remember though, Anne points out, that this doesn’t mean the communities of support around us aren’t always there. As she puts it, “it is not that the dark days made the community but rather that they highlighted this incredible scaffolding that we have around us.”in article image-love1 The practical assistance that patients can receive from their community can help both with immediate needs then, and with long-term awareness of a very positive support that might be out of sight until the most difficult times. Chloe also points out that having the support of a community is also about engagement. Everyone has a community, she writes, “but they have to be willing to take part in it.” Several contributors feel similarly that it’s certainly worth the investment to try to connect with your own community of support and care, because, as David puts it, for example, a community that is working well and can really help is “larger than the sum of its parts,” One of the most important observations from this set of contributions about the word so far is that a community can and should revolve around a patient’s needs, and can be the binding agent that holds all the different members together, in a mission of support and care. Steve writes that a useful community should be one “where the cancer patient holds the velvet rope to [an] exclusive club, [where] the patient decides who gets in and who isn’t on the list.”