Keys to Supporting Someone With Breast Cancer
One in eight women will receive a breast cancer diagnosis in their lifetime. We all know someone with breast cancer. Or we know someone who knows someone with breast cancer. What do we do when we learn a friend or family member has breast cancer? Do you know how to support someone with breast cancer? Most of us want to help but might not know exactly what to do.
Everyone’s situation is different, and people might have different needs, but there are generally some key elements involved in supporting someone as they embark on their cancer journey. They are emotional and practical support for the breast cancer patient and personal support for yourself.
Providing Emotional Support for Women With Breast Cancer
Many women fall apart when they receive a breast cancer diagnosis. They might be feeling overwhelmed, afraid, uncertain, and worried- understandably. Being diagnosed with breast cancer is something every woman worries about. When it does happen, it can rattle even the strongest person.
Whether your friend realizes it right away or not, after she receives her breast cancer diagnosis, she is going to need a strong support system to get her through. Friends and family play an essential role in the life of most women with breast cancer. Breast cancer survivors will tell you that emotional support was a critical part of their recovery.
Whatever your friend’s feelings are, you should be available (no matter what) to provide the emotional support she will need in the days, weeks, and months to come. How can you do this?
Listen to your friend. Let her do as much talking as she wants about things that are scaring her, even if they are hard to hear. Is she afraid of the side effects of treatment? Does she worry about being a burden on her family? Does she have children to think about? Being a friend who can listen to her talk without passing judgment or giving advice can be very helpful to someone with breast cancer.
Offer encouragement and understanding. Let her know you understand her fears and concerns instead of giving advice or diverting your friend’s focus from difficult topics. Offer gentle words of hope and encouragement without dismissing her feelings about being sick.
Having a friend who can accept that it is ok to feel angry, depressed, or scared allows a cancer patient to talk about her cancer in honest and open ways. Doing so is essential to maintaining some semblance of emotional health.
Sending little gifts and treats is another way to offer emotional support to your friend with cancer. Studies show that cancer patients respond very well when they have things to distract them or remind them that they have support. Sending a present, flowers, healthy food, and notes are a great way to boost someone’s spirits, especially if you can’t bring them on a personal visit. You don’t have to spend a lot of money. In this situation, it really is the thought that matters.
In a perfect world, you can provide this support in person. Regular visits to your friend with cancer can be an essential part of her emotional well-being. But, be sure that she is up for company. If you can spend time together, follow her lead. She might want to sit quietly with you nearby, have a deep conversation, or she might suggest you watch your favorite funny movie together.
If you can provide emotional support to someone with breast cancer in any of these ways, she is lucky to have you at her side.
Providing Practical Support To Someone With Breast Cancer
Many breast cancer patients need practical help with everyday tasks. Depending on the types of treatment she will need, your friend may need help anywhere from a few weeks to a year or more. These are some of the most important ways you can help your friend who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Offer to do the following:
- go grocery shopping
- drive their children to school, sports, or playdates
- bring something you know she needs
- cook and deliver meals
- organize other people by creating a meal train, housework, or childcare calendar to maximize resources and rally the troops around your friend
- accompany her to doctor’s appointments
- accompany her or transport her to and from surgery, chemo, or radiation
- make and/or stock the fridge with food that can help her maintain a healthy diet
- if she is up for it, visit after treatment to help her take care of herself. For example, you can make sure she eats, takes her medications, and stays hydrated.
These are some of the most important ways you can help provide your friend with better quality of life as she undergoes treatment for breast cancer. Whether you are a family member or friend, your practical support can really help.
Seeking Personal Support When Your Friend Has Breast Cancer
It might not make sense at first, and you might be asking, “why do I need support? I’m not the one who is sick.”
You might not be aware of this (hopefully, you never will be), but supporting someone with cancer is hard. Breast cancer is a dreadful disease. Obviously, it is hardest on the patient.
But, seeing someone you love undergoing chemo, radiation, surgery, or other forms of treatment can be taxing on the patient’s family and friends. Being part of a strong support system is rewarding, but it is also emotionally draining. It sometimes requires you to put your own feelings on the back-burner as you listen to your friend talk about her own.
For these reasons, you must find some support of your own, especially if your friend with cancer is usually the person you would turn to for help. You might benefit from talking to someone about your own fears and feelings. Find a friend, a family member, one of your co-workers, professional doctors, or a support group to help you process your emotions and lend some focus to your mental and physical health.
You cannot help your friend if you are a physical or emotional mess. Make sure you treat your mind and body well so you can be there for her when she needs you the most.
Support Your Friend With Breast Cancer – Send a Helpful Cancer Gift Basket
If you know someone with breast cancer and want to show your support, send a healthy cancer care package from Rock the Treatment. Chemotherapy and radiation gift baskets are packed with the essentials needed to ease side effects of treatment, as well as enhance physical and mental well-being. See all of our cancer care packages and find the one that best supports their journey.