Breast cancer is scary – for the patient, and for her family and friends. As a loved one, you want to help, but maybe you don’t know how.
As a breast cancer survivor, I’m often asked by friends how they can help someone someone newly diagnosed or going through treatments.
Here are four ways to help a friend diagnosed with breast cancer:
Chemo bag. Chemo is boring! You sit in a chair, attached to an IV of
poisons medicines for up to six hours. A friend gave me one of the best “gifts” when I started chemo. She gave me a super nice bag containing an iTunes gift card, a word search book, hard candy (chemo can dry your mouth), and stuff to keep me warm (fluffy socks, a blanket, and a handmade knit cap).
Through treatment, I added to the bag – easy-breezy books sent by friends (no subject matter too heavy), mix CDs, DVDs of favorite TV shows, celebrity gossip magazines, a really good water bottle, and shoes that were easy to slip on and off.
Now that I’m done with treatments, I use the bag when I go to the gym. It reminds me that I’m strong. I’m a fighter. I’m loved. And my body is capable of amazing things.
Help. Cancer treatments make you EXHAUSTED. I felt a level of tiredness that I never knew existed. Parents at my kids’ school organized weekly meals for us, which helped on the days I just couldn’t physically manage to make dinner. Other parents signed up to mow our yard and help with outside chores. It was a relief knowing things would get taken care of when I physically couldn’t do it.
Other ways you can help someone going through treatments: clean their house or hire a service to do so, go grocery shopping for them, or take their car for an oil change. Think of all the things that make a household run – someone undergoing cancer treatments probably doesn’t have the energy to do that stuff. And the patient’s spouse or caregiver is focused on helping the patient, not pulling weeds.
Another idea: offer to take the kids for the afternoon (or better yet, make it a full day).
Listen. While I underwent treatments, a core group of friends checked in with me often. They listened to me when I needed to vent. And this same group kept my spirits high on treatment days by sending goofy texts or messages. Chemo flew by when we spent the morning texting only using emojis or GIFs, or when they would send silly pictures to cheer me up.
Compliment them. A cancer patient goes through a lot, emotionally and physically. Maybe she lost her hair. Maybe she worries about losing her breast. Tell her that she looks beautiful. Compliment her head scarf or tell her that the color of her blouse brings out her stunning eyes. Offering compliments – SINCERE ones – makes anyone feel good, but for someone who may not be feeling well, a few nice words can really make an impact.
A few friends sent me jewelry with inspirational saying and compliments. I wore my “She dreamed she could, so she did” bracelet and my “Strong and BeYOUtiful” necklace on many treatment days.
Simple gestures and thoughtful conversations go a long way! I hope these tips are helpful to you if someone you care about is fighting this battle. As always, feel free to reach out via the website if you would like.