Finding out that a loved one has breast cancer is frightening. It can be a challenge to work through your own emotions while trying to provide love and support to your loved one. Hopefully the following tips will be helpful.
Reacting to a Loved One’s Diagnosis of Breast Cancer
- Let your loved one respond to her diagnosis in her own way. Women respond differently based on personality, coping skills and previous life experiences.
- Communicate openly and honestly – it is essential in meeting your loved one’s needs.
- Allow yourself to react. It’s okay to cry!
- Let yourself grieve along with your loved one.
- Seek out support for yourself.
- Make sure to take care of yourself even if you don't feel like it.
- Help out in practical ways, including attending doctors’ appointments together, helping out with household chores, caring for children, dealing with insurance companies and finances, etc.
- Assure your loved one of your unconditional love and participation in her care.
- Understand that most women find it difficult to receive any assistance, as they are usually the caregivers in their family.
- Allow your loved one to have time alone to sort through her life and emotions.
- Understand that sexual intimacy may be temporarily halted, but the breast cancer journey can present an opportunity for couples to grow in love and intimacy.
Helping a Loved One with Breast Cancer
- Call or send a card to convey, "I'm thinking of you."
- Don't relay stories about other women’s negative experiences with breast cancer.
- Avoid giving too much advice.
- Take her to lunch, a movie or shopping.
- Baby-sit the children at your home.
- During treatment do things for her that might be difficult; e.g. shopping for school clothes, getting gifts/cards for birthdays or holidays, or taking the children for haircuts.
- Encourage her to do as many of her daily activities as possible. Don't encourage helplessness or "feeling sick."
- Drop by for 15-20 minutes when you can, but call first. Don't assume sickness requires rest at the expense of communication.
- Cook dinner. Offer a choice of two courses and bring the food in disposable containers.
- Make your offers of assistance specific. If you say, "Call me any time for anything," she probably will not ask.
- Offer to run one or two meaningless errands a week for the family. Pick up stamps, milk, dry cleaning, etc.
- Share your humor. Even if it isn't funny today, it may be relished later.
- Allow her to feel sad or express her worst fears. Sometimes the greater part of the cure is the release of fear.
- Say the word "cancer" around her and talk about the real life you are living. This will help her feel more involved with the world of normalcy.
- Most of all, be there for her and don't forget to remind her that you care.