October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month around the world and amongst my wider circle of school moms I currently know of a few newly diagnosed cases that have rocked my community.
It’s such a scary thought for most women to receive a diagnosis of breast cancer that often what can happen is that friends pull away from those who are walking the tough road of chemo, radiation and surgery because it makes it all too real for them and because they feel so helpless in the situation.
How to help a friend with breast cancer?
Watching your loved one be put through a diagnosis as scary as breast cancer can be extremely hard BUT the truth is that they are the ones going through something MUCH harder and need all the love and support they can get.
The problem is being a support to your loved one can be tricky, as the space you find yourself in can feel rather helpless considering you are not a medical professional or miracle worker. Add to that the complication of feeling like you might say or do the wrong thing and upset them even more.
To help you feel more empowered with ways to help a friend with breast cancer I put together a few tips will help you to provide the best possible support during this trying time.
10 Best Ways to Help a Friend with Breast Cancer
1. Don’t avoid the hard topics
First things first, do not avoid the topic like the plague. A lot of times it feels as if the subject is toxic, and bringing it up will just put a damper on everything. However, many cancer patients have been stating the exact opposite. Cancer survivor Kim stated last year, “to be honest, I think people need to talk about the hard things more, it makes us feel less alone and it’s very much part of the human experience.”
As a personal friend of mine I asked her to suggest a few ideas for ways to help a friend going through cancer treatment and she gave me some insights for this article!
2. Be their errand runner
Having to run errands can be stressful in itself. However if you’re out and know your loved one needs some things picked up, doing the favour for them will relieve some of their stress. It can be as simple as picking up a couple extra things at the grocery store, or dropping their kids off after school!
3. Start a TV series with them
Starting a new TV obsession might be exactly what the doctor ordered! It is a perfect remedy to make your friend or loved one feel some sort of normalcy. Buying subscriptions to Netflix or Showmax can provide hours of entertainment for both of you!
4. Be their note taker or companion
Listening to the doctor give their advice and diagnosis can be very overwhelming. A lot of the times it feels as if you’re listening but you are not processing any of the information. Having someone there to take down all the notes will allow your loved one to process all the information, especially after the doctor leaves. Once chemo starts and medical visits become more frequent you can offer to go along to sit with them during the chemo if you have the time or to wait while they have a PET scan. This will also relieve their family members who may need to get on with other responsibilities like work!
5. Gifts other than food
A lot of the time, people become bombarded with casseroles when they are sick, so much so that they end up going to waste. In reality, your time and money can be better spent to buy them something that they will put to use. In this case, a lot of breast cancer patients have gone through a tough mastectomy. Gifting them with a bra that fits their new shape, or even satin pajamas to provide comfort post-surgery could be a nice surprise for them. According to my friend Kim, flowers were ALWAYS welcome!
6. And if you do decide on food
However, food delivery is always a thoughtful way to show support! One piece of advice, call ahead! Ask your friend what day and time would be best to deliver the meal. Giving them a heads up is an easy way for them to let you know if they already have enough dinners for the next month, or they might express that they’re starving and craving your famous pasta bake! Another great tip is to drop off freezable food like soup which they can defrost at a later stage when their appetite has returned or they have no energy to cook but need to eat something nutritious. Remember to keep your advice about food based treatments to yourself (unless asked). Yes there are many websites singing the praises for green juice and tumeric cancer cures but bear in mind that this is someone’s life and, as yet, there is no scientific evidence that food makes any difference to curing cancer. Approaching food as a tool to keep your body strong through treatment is, however, a good idea, so encourage your loved one to feed their body with healthy food.
7. Meditate or pray with them
Meditation has numerous benefits, one of the most beneficial in this case would have to be a decrease in pain. At the same time, this exercise can reduce stress and even make you happier. Taking the time to breathe and appreciate all there is in your great lives will only provide for positive vibes! And if you are the praying kind offer to pray for your friend or with them if they are open to it. Send a message or voice note to tell them when you are thinking about them but don’t expect a response. Just reminding them that you care is what is needed at the moment. Let them guide the rest of your interactions.
8. Set up a communication team
With so many people to update with each stage of their cancer, it can become overwhelming. Starting a whatsapp group or phone tree of all the people they want to keep informed on any new information will take the stress away from them and yet still allow the support team to stay in the loop.
9. Open ended invitations
Always be sure to leave an open ended invitation when planning something like a birthday party or a night out with friends. Letting them know the event is not mandatory will ease their mind without having them feel accountable to attend. They might just want to stay in and be lazy, and that’s okay! It’s up to them and what they feel their body can manage.
10. Become their chaperone
Become their chaperone who can drive them to appointments or even just to the movies. Let them know you are there for them through your actions, and follow through! They might feel awkward asking this of you, so offer it to them before they can refuse!
The most important thing is to just be there. Listen to them, laugh with them, cry with them, let them know when you’re thinking about them and that you’re on call whenever they need anything – even if it’s just a hug! They will appreciate your care and concern above anything.
If you have any other ideas on ways to help a friend with Breast Cancer please leave a comment below and if you have walked this road and have some insights to share from the other side on what helped you get through cancer treatment and surgery please do share your thoughts too.
And don’t forget to check your breasts this month (and every month!) by following this useful guide.