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 30 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 50 self-help groups and their members over 12 years. It also places cancer self-help groups in a larger context, comparing them to other social movement organisations 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, programmes, operating procedures, and organisational 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 organisational dynamics.
Mark A. Chesler is professor of sociology at the University of Michigan and the author of "Childhood Cancer and the Family." He is a national board member of the Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation and the founder of a local self-help group for parents of children with cancer. Barbara K. Chesney is associate professor of sociology at the University of Toledo and has been active in psychosocial research on public health and community organizations."