Breast cancer affects everyone differently. As such, nobody can ever really tell you what the best thing you can do for a friend or loved one who has breast cancer is. It is best to follow The Platinum Rule:
Treat others how they would like to be treated.
This rule requires that you talk with your friend or family member and ask them how they want to be supported. That said, here are a few things that you can do to make sure that you are being the supportive person you want to be for them.
Sometimes one of the best things you can do in any situation is to simply sit and listen. Let them vent their frustrations and voice their fears. Laugh with them and cry with them, but let them take the lead. They already have to deal with having to listen to doctors talk at them about their cancer. They may not be interested in hearing what you think of their cancer or your solutions to what is bothering them. Sometimes just letting them talk and vent is what they need to feel better and back in control.
Don’t Treat Them Differently
Many times, some of the only symptoms someone with cancer of any kind may feel are fatigue and/or a painless lump, depending on when the cancer is discovered and what kind it is. They may even feel generally healthy.
People are not their illness. They are still the same person you knew prior to their diagnosis and most want to be treated as such. There is a tendency to want to put on the kid gloves around cancer patients because we want to be supportive and be sensitive to their needs, but the idea that treating them like a sick person will help their recovery is inaccurate.
Often times, cancer patients want the ability to live their lives as normal and be supported through the unpredictability of treatment. The stigma of and tendency to reduce a person to their illness can be very disheartening to that person. This is why many people experiencing cancer tell a core group of people they trust and then hold off on telling others until they have to.
But, like we said, everyone is different. Before you make any assumptions on how someone wants to be treated, ask them how they would like to be supported.
Help Them With Things That Stress Them Out
As noted ad nauseam above, everyone is different and you need to talk with them about their own personal situation and needs. That said, the stress that comes from being in treatment is undeniable. The stressors are different for every person but some general ones that you may be able to help with include:
- Helping them get to doctor appointments
- Helping around the house with cleaning or lawn care
- Helping with babysitting or pet sitting/walking
- Putting together activity or fun nights
Don’t assume that the person you know wants to be supported in these ways or has no other ways you can help them. Just ask!
Treat Them How They Want to be Treated
While you may find it easier to make assumptions about how you can help and support someone experiencing breast cancer, it is important to remember that their reality and situation is different than yours and your idea of support may be different than what they need. If you offer to help them in one way and they say no, don’t get offended! To make sure you are being the most supportive person you can be, chat with them, listen to what they have to say, find out how they want to be treated and offer to support them in the areas they need help.