According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc., there’s a woman in the United States who will be diagnosed with this type of cancer every 2 minutes.
Also, in the United States, breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer among women says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Over the years, breast cancer has affected millions of lives and families not only in the US but in the whole world. If yours is the latest family this illness has affected, we’ve listed some of the ways on how to support a family member with breast cancer.
Indeed, learning about a family member’s breast cancer diagnosis is difficult. You may feel frightened, shocked, angry, disoriented, and find yourself at a loss for words. But the good news is, breast cancer treatments are more affordable, advanced, and effective. So never feel hopeless. Instead, you can focus your attention on how you can make things easier for your loved one.
Several studies show that having strong support from family and friends can help people do better emotionally. If you are wondering how best you can help, here are some of the ways to help your loved one with her cancer journey.
9 Ways on How to Support a Family Member with Breast Cancer
Support doesn’t necessarily mean you should drown her with words. Most of the time, silence is the best support you can give to your loved ones when they are feeling all these emotions. Because not all positive words are acceptable to her. You can hold her hand, hug her, or just be around and share some silence.
Naturally, your loved one has so much in her mind right now. So the best thing you can do is be a good listener. If she’s comfortable, let her express her thoughts and feelings. Let her vent and cry out if she has to. You don’t have to have all the answers. Simply listening to her is an important way to provide emotional support.
Be supportive of your loved one’s decisions
If your family member has already decided which treatment to go with, you have to respect her choice even if you don’t agree with it. She has all the right to make her own decisions. So the best thing you can do is to support that.
Keep things normal
Usually, people try to do everything for a cancer patient in hopes to make her life easier. Some people also do all these things to feel useful. Because otherwise, they would feel helpless. However, your loved one needs to be able to do the tasks she used to do before the diagnosis.
If she wants to go back to work, let her. If she wants to cook her meals, allow her. Talk to her about your neighbor, the last episode of your favorite series, or anything that doesn’t involve her illness. Being able to do what she normally did can lessen her feeling of cancer taking over her life.
Offer practical help
Chemotherapy and radiation have many side effects. Thus, making a cancer patient unable to perform some of her daily tasks. So after treatments, make sure to offer more practical and specific help. But before making your offer, make sure to consider her needs as well as your willingness to commit.
Here are some samples of the practical help you can offer:
- Cooking meals which she can throw in the freezer and heat up when needed
- Washing clothes and ironing
- Cleaning the house
- Taking her children to or from school
- Driver for her to appointments
- Doing her shopping
- Take care of her pets
If she doesn’t want to accept your help, don’t take it personally. She might want to remain as independent as she could be. But do remind her that you are there in case she changes her mind.
The most important thing you have to remember when supporting a cancer patient is to be truly present. Most people find it difficult to find the right words to say or the right things to do.
However, just being alongside her when she needs you the most is the biggest thing you can do to support her. Follow through with your commitments and show up as promised.
For example, you can sit with her through treatments. Or you can join her at her doctor’s appointments and be her extra ears. This way, you can listen to what the doctor says, ask questions, and remember all the information she may otherwise forget.
You can also drive her to her treatments or have dinner with her. You can do whatever works best for you both. See, you don’t have to do anything special. You just have to remind her that she’s not alone in her fight against cancer.
Breast cancer is a long fight. Treatments can be lengthy and the journey does not stop on the last day of treatment. Many cancer patients often say that some of their friends and family don’t call any longer after the initial diagnosis.
So make sure you always keep in touch and check up on her regularly in the long run. This can be very helpful and meaningful for someone who has to live with cancer.
Help her financially
Cancer can be financially draining for a family. A study from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) shows that about 40 to 50% of US patients face financial hardships due to cancer treatment. So instead of focusing on healing, this creates an additional problem and worry for a cancer patient.
If you can and you have the means to do so, you can offer to help her financially. If not, there are other ways you can support her financially. For instance, you can help ease her worries by organizing a charity or a cause to help raise money. You can also set up a collection and buy or pay for the things that may not be covered by her insurance.
Shower her with cards and gifts
Gifts are a great way to show someone that you are thinking about her and how much you love her. Sometimes, it may even take away her feeling of loneliness and isolation. So it won’t hurt to shower her with thoughtful cards and gifts.
Help the caregiver too
What most people forget is that the persons closest to the cancer patient will need support as well. Caring for a cancer patient can be very demanding, stressful, and rather upsetting. It may also make someone feel isolated. So he/she will need some help too.
Make sure to check up on her caregiver as well and see how he/she is doing. Try to offer some help too. For example, you can stay with the cancer patient for a while. This will give the caregiver some time for himself/herself. Doing some of the practical help stated above can also take some of the burdens from the caregiver.
If you are a caregiver, make sure to take care of yourself too. Remember to eat and sleep well, and don’t forget to spend some time with yourself. You need to be okay to be able to continue supporting your loved one.