Offering support for a breast cancer diagnosis

By Anita Antoniolli, MD, FACS ProMedica Physicians Breast Surgery

        Most likely, someone you care about has faced breast cancer.
        The diagnosis is always a shock and brings many unknowns. However, one thing is certain – you want to be there for your loved one.
        How do you do that in a meaningful, helpful way?
        Provide emotional support
        A breast cancer diagnosis often comes with a wide range of emotions – anger, confusion, fear, regret and sadness. If your loved one wants to talk, let them. Listen to them with your full attention. And, unless they ask, try not to offer advice or opinions. Truly being heard may be what your loved one needs more than anything right now.
        Illness can also be a very lonely time. Let your loved one know that they are not alone and that you are thinking about them. Call. Text. Email. Send a card.
        When you get together, ask your friend how they are feeling and what they are up for before planning activities. The companionship of a simple walk in the woods, watching a movie together or quietly working a jigsaw puzzle may provide the perfect amount of comfort.
        And remember, every conversation does not have to be about cancer. Your friend may have cancer, but they are still the same person they’ve always been.
        Offer practical support
        In the early stages of treatment, women often try to maintain the cadence of their normal, hectic lives. But when they begin to experience side effects, this becomes difficult. By making yourself available to help with basic, everyday tasks, you can make a big difference for someone going through cancer treatment.
        For many, asking for help is not easy. So instead of asking, “What can I do?” offer help with a specific task. Try, “Can I pick up some groceries for you this week?” Or “How about I vacuum your living room?”
        Other ways to help could be bringing over homecooked meals that can easily be frozen and reheated, providing transportation to medical appointments, helping with housework, babysitting young children or playing chauffeur for busy teenagers.
        Help connect with community resources
        Women going through breast cancer have many resources available to them in addition to their medical team and close family and friends. Support groups, counseling and survivorship programs are offered through many local organizations such as the ProMedica Hickman Cancer Center, The Victory Center, the American Cancer Society and the Susan G. Komen Foundation.


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