When you have a loved one who is diagnosed with breast cancer, it is often hard to know how to help. You may feel lost, hurt, angry or fearful while feeling you have to keep it together for them because they are going through so much. Knowing what to say can also be hard, as things you mean as comfort can come off as anything but. So how do you proceed in this possibly terrifying new world you have found yourself in? How do you comfort and support your loved one? Keep reading, as we discuss some ways in which this can be accomplished.
Check Your Own Feelings
If you are not sure how you feel about cancer, it is likely that you will say something thoughtless when faced with it. Cancer is a terrifying prospect, and one we as a society are not taught how to properly deal with. Before you try to be there for the other person, then, stop and take a moment to think. Think about your past experiences with others who were diagnosed. Are you afraid? Angry? Unsure? Anxious? Recognize your emotions and keep them in mind as well as what the person with breast cancer may be feeling.
Above all, it is necessary to listen to what the person is telling you. Sometimes the only support a person needs is someone to vent to or rant with, someone they know has their back and can be a person to lean on until they can face the world again on bad days or someone who will let them celebrate the victories when things are going well. Be sure to show you are listening. Ask questions if you have them, and paraphrase what the person is saying to make sure that you understand. This is not the time for advice.
Offer to Be There
Cancer diagnoses are isolating. Offer to go with your friend or loved one to their doctor’s appointments. Appointments can be very overwhelming both physically and emotionally with a lot of information being flung at the breast cancer patient all at once. Take notes for them, to prevent information from getting lost.
See what else you can do- in practical terms. If your loved one has children, perhaps you could cook a meal for the family occasionally, help the children with their homework or do something else concrete to support them.
When In Doubt, Ask
No two people are alike, nor are any two breast cancer cases. If you know or have known two cancer patients, do not assume that your friend or loved one with breast cancer has the same needs or wants as the other person with cancer you knew. This should go without saying but when people are trying to be supportive, sometimes they forget to ask what sorts of support the cancer patient actually needs. Breast cancer makes people feel as if their life is spinning out of control, especially at first. Give that person back as much control as possible by listening to their wants and needs and doing as they ask.
Breast cancer diagnoses are difficult, both for the person diagnosed and their friends and family. Friends and family may be left feeling unsure, shut out and with no idea what exactly they can do to help. This article is not a definitive guide. However, it will give you a starting point, and ideas for supporting the breast cancer patient in your life.