A diagnosis of breast cancer is devastating not only for the individual, but also for family and friends. It can be challenging to know what to say — a feeling of powerlessness may prevail. Supporting someone who is fighting breast cancer requires the tenacity of a warrior and the gentleness of a friend.
Follow these suggestions when supporting someone fighting breast cancer:
Listen and be present
It is important to be a good listener. Someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer is afraid, angry and uncertain. Listening to these fears and being present with them, even in silence, can be a source of great strength for the person fighting cancer. Allowing them to express their anger and fears also demonstrates that you will be there to support them through it all, rather than abandoning them when times get tough.
Be a fact finder, not an advice giver
The initial diagnosis of breast cancer can lead to shock and anxiety. It is helpful to support the individual by gathering facts about dealing with the disease, treatment options, and community resources, such as support groups. However, helping your loved ones find information is different from giving them advice about choosing their treatment or plan of care. Listen to them as they talk about their options and be helpful by finding more information as they desire, but don’t give out unsolicited advice.
Be supportive of your loved one’s decision
A myriad of decisions must be made by your loved one in relation to the treatment process. Your loved one will not make these decisions lightly and it is important to be supportive of their decision, even if it is not the road you would have chosen.
Remember the old adage “laughter is the best medicine?” Don’t be afraid to laugh and have fun. Living with cancer and supporting someone with cancer can be stressful, and learning to laugh together can help get you through the tough times that you will face.
Acknowledge the grieving process
The diagnosis of breast cancer for a woman attacks her very femininity and many of the treatment options continue in this attack. It is normal to go through a grieving process related to the feeling of this loss of femininity. Be supportive by listening to her anger, fear, and uncertainty and don’t be afraid to hug her and touch her.
Gather a support network
A variety of support groups are available to individuals living with breast cancer, as well as for individuals supporting a loved one with breast cancer. This is one of those times where you can’t do everything alone. Ensure that you have a positive group of supporters surrounding and uplifting you as you care for your loved one and don’t take on more than you can realistically do. Joining a support group is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of strength which will be invaluable to you and your loved ones throughout this difficult time.
Have some fun
Go do something fun! It is vital to focus on more than just the disease, because your loved one is so much more than a diagnosis. It is important to do something fun – plan a girl’s night chick-flick movie marathon (or horror flick marathon if that is more to your liking), or, pending your loved one’s energy level, go out to the park, go to a game, take a walk, or go out to dinner. It is OK to laugh and have fun.
It can be challenging to know what to do or say when supporting someone living with breast cancer, but it is important to be yourself. Being genuine shows your loved one how much you truly care about him or her as an individual, not a disease.
A warrior has strength and is prepared to fight through the challenges. Living with breast cancer requires the strength, steadfastness, and determination of a warrior; yet it cannot be done alone; it requires an equally strong and driven group of warriors who will support their loved ones through the highs and lows — never giving up and never letting go.
More on breast cancer
Find more information about breast cancer and tips on support at SheKnows Breast Cancer >