Finding out someone you love has breast cancer can be devastating. There are a lot of feelings to process. You likely will face your own fears and need to seek comfort for yourself. More importantly, you’ll want to find ways to help your loved one however you can. Support will look different for different situations.
Just being present for your loved one is one of the greatest gifts you can give. From a practical standpoint, navigating their diagnosis with them might entail giving them a ride to treatment appointments. Your support might also take the form of financial assistance or meal prep. Keep reading for practical tips to support a loved one with breast cancer.
1. Go Pink With Donations
One way to support your family member is to donate to breast cancer organizations. Some charities seek financial resources to aid researchers in finding a cure. Others support patients by relieving the financial strains of fighting the disease; click here for more information on those efforts. Your charitable giving not only supports your loved one, but helps others going through a similar journey, too.
You can also participate in awareness and fundraising efforts in their area. Sometimes taking part in something bigger than yourself gives you a bit of control — lean into that. If your friend or family member wants to take part in a walk for cancer, join them. Of course, they might not like the spotlight, and that’s OK. If public events aren’t their thing, you can raise funds anonymously.
2. Take Charge of Household Tasks
A breast cancer diagnosis, treatment, and recovery is emotionally, physically, and mentally draining. An easy go-to phrase during trying times is to say, “Let me know if there’s anything you need.” While that is a nice sentiment, often patients don’t want to feel like a burden or ask for help. Or they simply are too overwhelmed to think through things to give people to do.
Step up and offer assistance with a specific task. If the patient has a huge yard that requires lots of maintenance, just stop by and start mowing. It will be physically taxing for them to do it themselves and engaging a lawn service is a burden in itself. If you don’t have time or strength, pay for a few months of lawn care. The same goes for cleaning their house or hiring a cleaning service.
3. Make Sure They’re Getting Healthy Food and Exercise
Part of the breast cancer recovery journey is ensuring the patient is taking care of their overall health. Light exercise can be good for them, and so are nourishing foods and hydration. Stop by their home to make sure they’re eating well. Make them a healthy dinner and enjoy each other’s company.
You can ask other family and friends to pitch in on groceries as well. Set up a grocery delivery service to deliver the patient’s food right to their door. If they are too weak to lift and put things away, plan to have people over to help on delivery days.
It’s likely that strenuous exercise will be more than your loved one can handle, especially after a chemo or radiation treatment. But you can encourage them to join you on walks or for a bit of light yoga. Just basking in the sun on the patio is a nice pick-me-up, too.
4. Accompany Them to Appointments
Cancer treatments and appointments can be physically and emotionally exhausting. Many times it is best for the patient to have a ride and not drive themselves. So offer to drive your friend or arrange for and accompany them on a ride share to breast cancer treatments. This lends moral support and also provides them with safe transportation.
Some patients struggle with remembering everything that is said during appointments. It can be a very overwhelming time. If your loved one is comfortable with the arrangement, go in the exam room with them and take notes. This will be helpful to relay information to family members after the appointment. It will also help the patient to have accurate records of their treatments and notes from consultations to review later.
5. Just Be There
When faced with hardship and even the possibility of your loved one’s mortality, it can be hard to lean in. Some people feel uncomfortable around cancer patients or worry they will say the wrong thing. Others have a hard time holding it together and don’t want their sick family member or friend to see them cry. They aren’t the ones with cancer, after all, so they feel they must be strong.
Do your best to quiet that inner voice and just be there for the person you love. Show up and spend time in the trenches — cry with them, laugh with them. You’ll never regret the time you spend together, even if you say or do the occasional awkward thing. Be open and vulnerable and available. They’ll appreciate that so much.
Being the Best Support You Can Be
When someone you love has breast cancer, you want to be a person they can lean on. Let them know you’re there for them in whatever way they need you. Each relationship is unique and so support looks different for everyone.
Do what you can to make their life easier and to show them they are loved. Just being there is one of the most impactful ways you can support someone in their cancer journey.