How to Support a Friend Diagnosed with Breast Cancer
Finding out a friend has been diagnosed with breast cancer can be shocking. But according to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the second most diagnosed cancer among American women after skin cancer. While advances have been made in treating breast cancer, your friend may still have a long and unexpected journey ahead of them, and you can support them in many ways.
Everyone with a cancer diagnosis deals with it differently, and age, family needs, and life stage have a lot to do with that. Also, the level of support your friend needs may change as they progress through treatment.
Here are just a few ways you can support them throughout their journey.
Your friend is likely feeling overwhelmed and experiencing a wide range of emotions when they receive their diagnosis. They’ll be making decisions about treatment plans while also managing their daily life.
Let them share and process their thoughts and feelings openly with you. Avoid the temptation to offer unsolicited advice. And be careful not to respond in ways that minimize their feelings or experience. Instead of responding with phrases like, “It could be worse” or “At least they found it early”, consider simply saying, “I’m so sorry you’re going through this.”
Offer Specific & Practical Help
When someone is facing a crisis, it’s common to say, “Let me know if you need anything.” But for some people, asking for specific help is difficult – even when they need it the most. You can, instead, offer help with specific tasks like:
- Picking up kids from school or other activities
- Buying groceries
- Cleaning the house
- Taking their dog for a walk
- Driving them to a doctor’s appointment
- Sitting with them during chemo treatments
Or offer to help their caregiver. They are likely juggling a lot and would appreciate the assistance. Before stepping in to help, please consider safety measures your friend or their family may be following, such as face masks or social distancing.
Be the Point Person
Questions about diagnosis and treatment usually come from a place of concern, but for the patient, keeping friends updated can be exhausting. Offer to be the point person and relay information they are comfortable sharing. Create a group text or email for close family and friends or through an online platform like Caring Bridge.
Send Thoughtful Gifts & Cards
Small, thoughtful gifts or cards are a great way to brighten someone’s day. It’s also a way for long-distance friends and family members to offer support. Gift ideas might include:
- Amazon gift cards so they can shop from home
- Door Dash gift cards so they can order from local restaurants and have food delivered to their home
- Scarves and hats
- Hand lotion and lip balms
- Books and magazines
- A soft blanket, shawl, or socks to keep them warm during chemo sessions
You might also consider a small gift for the caregiver to encourage them.
Monitor Your Own Health
Taking care of your own breast health can be an important way to show support to your friend. For a complete list of resources, including how to do breast self-exams, types of breast cancer, and breast cancer genetics, visit www.nationalbreastcancer.org.