When a loved one is diagnosed with breast cancer, our first response is to jump right in with offers to support her in any way we can. But sometimes, it’s difficult to know what, exactly, our loved one needs. And other times, things we think will help actually do more harm than good. How, then, do we know the best way to support a loved one through breast cancer treatment? We’ve put together this simple list for family and friends of breast cancer patients to use as a resource.
One of the east ways to support a family member or friend going through breast cancer treatment is simply being a good listener. Having someone who will listen to her go over various treatment options, empathize with her as she talks about the fear and uncertainty involved in her disease, or simply meet her where she is, rather than tell her what to do, is a huge help to any loved one going through breast cancer.
Battling breast cancer, no matter how severe, is more often than not a terrifying and sobering experience. Every day, your loved one wakes up with the heaviness of knowing she has cancer. Which is why what she often needs from you is something to lighten the load. Whether this means taking her out for a fun day of enjoying something she loves, accompanying her to chemotherapy dressed in pink, or something else that will make your loved one smile, it’s helpful to encourage her to find moments of laughter and joy, even in the midst of the struggle.
Don’t tell your loved one how to feel.
On the other hand, while it’s helpful to encourage joy and facilitate opportunities for fun experiences, it isn’t helpful to tell your loved one how to feel. Don’t tell her she should feel lucky when treatment is over, or happy that her diagnosis was better than some, or anything else — what she needs, more than anything, is to feel what she feels and know that you will be there beside her no matter what.
Bring food — but ask first.
While it can be a big support to family and friends undergoing breast cancer treatment to stock up their fridge, be sure to double check whether they really need one more casserole before bringing it over. Sometimes, your loved one may not be well enough to see you, or she may not like mushroom casserole, or she may already have a fridge chock-full of them!
Don’t be surprised by changes in her mood.
Breast cancer treatment involves medicines and procedures that are likely to change your loved one’s moods. Don’t be taken off guard when she’s feeling depressed, angry, or tired — this is part of the process, and it’s only made worse if you expect her to be her usual cheery self, and are baffled or upset when she’s not.
Join a support group for family and friends of breast cancer patients.
Sometimes, it’s the family and friends of breast cancer patients who need a little extra encouragement. Watching a loved one battle breast cancer is hard, and a great resource can be joining a support group, where you can empathize with others who are going through the same thing.
Avoid sharing stories about someone else you knew with breast cancer.
While it’s often tempting to share stories about someone else you knew with breast cancer, perhaps even someone who is now cancer free, it’s important to remember that each breast cancer diagnosis is unique. Sharing stories about someone else might seem encouraging to you, but for your loved one, it can often feel pointless. Try to focus on their specific diagnosis and find other ways to encourage them to continue fighting and remain hopeful through the hard days.
Fight for a cure.
The biggest way to support a family member or friend battle breast cancer? Join her in finding a cure! There are a number of ways to do this, including marathons to raise money for cancer research, donations to cancer awareness organizations (like the AiRS Foundation!), supporting a friend who’s raising money for cancer patients, and more. Let your loved one know that you understand what she’s going through by helping to find a cure for this disease once and for all.