When you learn that a loved one has been diagnosed with breast cancer, everything stops. In addition to feeling sad, scared, or worried, you might be wondering how you can help her get through it. Fortunately, there are things you can do to help make things easier for your loved one and yourself after diagnosis and during treatment.
Be normal. While it may seem like obvious advice, it’s important to act as you normally would and not treat them differently. That doesn’t mean ignoring the fact that they have cancer, just be honest with how you feel and be a good listener. Do you normally meet for coffee a few times a week? Keep doing it.
Be proactive. Saying something like “let me know if you need anything” isn’t helpful because she probably won’t reach out. Instead, think of things you know she’ll need help with and make them happen. Here are some things you can do to proactively to help:
Helping with meals. During treatment, her energy will be low, and helping to make sure meals are covered will be much appreciated. When you’re at the grocery store, shoot her a text, and see if there’s anything she needs and pick it up for her.
Childcare. Keeping up with young children is challenging on its own but doing so after surgery or chemo is extremely challenging. Offering to take the kids off her hands for a few hours or the day will be very helpful. Also, think about organizing a child care help calendar that involves you and other friends or family members.
Cleaning. Whether you share cleaning duties with your friends or hire a cleaning service, you’ll be giving her valuable support when she needs it most.
Lawn care and yard maintenance. Everyone in her house will have a lot on their plate, so chipping in and mowing her lawn and helping with other yard maintenance will be much appreciated.
Don’t put pressure on her. If you make a call or send a text, don’t expect a prompt response – she’s got a lot going on. Rest assured that she’s reading your messages and listening to your voicemails and will respond when she’s ready. Cut her a lot of slack and don’t expect much.
Don’t try to “fix” things. It’s natural to want to help by being positive and saying things like, “You’re going to beat this!” and “You’re so strong!”, but those kinds of sentiments aren’t likely to make her feel better. Instead, listen and let her take the lead. You may not have all the answers, but she’ll appreciate your willingness to go through it with her.
Make her feel special. Every thoughtful gift or card in the mail will be appreciated, especially when she’s in a dark place or feeling lonely. Let her know how much she means to you and how much she’s loved. Doing this will lift her up on bad days and help her power on.
Be a designated driver. Whether it’s dropping her off at the doctor or helping shuttle her kids to events, let her know that she can count on you to get her and her family where they need to be.
Learn to listen. No matter what she wants to talk about, listen. Maybe she’s concerned about an upcoming procedure and needs help coming up with a list of questions for her doctor. Or she might just want to vent. You don’t need to have all the answers, but just being there for her will be helpful.
Help lighten things up. Everyone needs laughter and joy in their lives, and this is especially true for cancer patients. Watch a funny movie or binge on some TV with her. She has plenty of time to think about her cancer, so she’ll appreciate the levity.
Open your network and provide connections. If you have friends or family members who’ve had breast cancer, ask if they’d mind talking with your friend to share their experiences. Your friend will appreciate connecting with those who’ve gone through what she’s going through.
Pamper her. While she’ll appreciate all the much-needed practical help that comes her way, she’ll also enjoy some pampering. Drop off a box of her favorite chocolates. Bring over some fresh flowers. Hook her up with a soft, comfy blanket. With all she’s going through, special treats are a great way to lift her spirits.
Learn More About Breast Cancer with Baptist Health
In short, supporting a friend or family member with breast cancer is all about being there for her. If you have additional questions, visit Baptist Health to learn more about resources for cancer patients or take our free online assessment to determine your breast cancer risk.
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